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Sanford Health in talks to take over Twin Cities-based Fairview Health Services

ST. PAUL – Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson announced today she is investigating a proposed takeover of Twin Cities-based Fairview Health Services by Sanford Health, a health system based in Fargo and Sioux Falls, S.D.

Swanson has scheduled public hearings on the issue starting April 7 at the state Capitol to receive comments on discussions involving Sanford’s potential takeover of Fairview, a century-old Minnesota charitable institution that includes the University of Minnesota Medical Center.

Swanson said she has confirmed that talks have reached an advanced stage and that Fairview’s board of directors is scheduled to hold a retreat on April 8. She thinks it will be to consider the matter of yielding control to Sanford.

Swanson told the Star Tribune she has concerns about a takeover of Fairview, in part because it could put the University of Minnesota’s research and teaching hospital, which is now controlled by Fairview, in the hands of an out-of-state company. U of M hospital officials, Swanson said, have deep concerns about being owned by Sanford, which has grown into a regional health care network based on hundreds of millions of dollars given by South Dakota banker Denny Sanford.

Swanson said her office decided to conduct public hearings as part of its role as regulator of charitable institutions to give the public the opportunity to participate in this dialogue.

“I am troubled by the notion that a small group of people at Fairview and Sanford would conduct private discussions without the benefit of the public’s input regarding a matter of such sweeping consequences for Minnesota when it comes to control of the University health system, the quality of health care for our patients, and our state’s economy and international prestige,” she said in a statement.

The attorney general’s office regulates charitable institutions. Swanson’s statement noted that Fairview has a 100-year history as a charitable institution in Minnesota, having been managed by the Norwegian Hospital Association, then the United Church Hospital Association, and eventually the Evangelical Lutheran Association.

Fairview now operates several Twin Cities hospitals and a network of clinics, and controls about 20 percent of the state’s health care market, Swanson said in a Star Tribune report.

Today, Fairview generates more than $2 billion in annual revenue, has a net worth of about $1.2 billion, employs about 22,000 Minnesotans, and reported net annual income of $129 million in its most recently available quarterly financials, Swanson said.

“Fairview is an integral part of our health care system and exists because of 100 years of goodwill, generosity, and financial support of the people of Minnesota,” Swanson said in her statement. “There should be significant public dialogue about any potential transfer of control of this century-old Minnesota charitable institution to Sanford Health.”

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