With the recent announcement of the potential merger of Fairview Health Services by Sanford Health, there has been a lot of commentary about the merits and dangers of such a deal.

Speaking as a physician who was part of the merger of Fairview and the University of Minnesota, who ran a department at Regions postmerger, who worked in rural Allina facilities and who has just concluded a stint at a Sanford facility in northern Minnesota, my personal feeling is the merger should occur. Fairview management is feckless, completely consumed with internal issues and relying on consultants to do what management should be doing — ideas and leadership.

Sanford is growing rapidly due to a good business model and quality leadership. It is a finance-driven organization that fixes finances and brings in new leadership. Sanford has improved care where it has gone.

The real issue here is the University of Minnesota Medical School, which has been foundering since the Fairview merger. The question we should be asking is how to not repeat the mistakes of the Fairview merger with the U.

Fairview stripped the financial assets of the University Hospital, which had supported the mission of the Medical School. The Medical School needs a better financial footing, and its research engine and innovations need to be fostered. For all the focus on the proposed $3 billion Mayo Clinic project, the state needs to remember that the U has more than twice the National Institutes of Health funding of Mayo and is also a generator of new technology for companies such as Medtronic, St. Jude, Amplatz, etc.

I am not aware of too many Fortune 500 companies that have come out of Rochester, for all of the excellence of the Mayo Clinic and its care.

Instead of micromanaging the takeover of Fairview, establish a clear vision for the Medical School with Sanford, which manages the main hospitals for medical schools in the Dakotas. This geographical base would provide a huge rural, Native American and community-based patient base that could provide a vibrant base of medical education for the future in the Upper Midwest. This is where we all should be focused.

T. Denny Sanford has been a generous supporter of diabetes and pediatric health research. Let’s take advantage of this and make something bigger and better than we could dream of apart.


Dr. Robert Gauthier is from St. Paul