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From left, Paul Hanson, President of Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota, and Chairman of the Board of Directors Pete Aube talk to Kelby Krabbenhoft, President and CEO Sanford Health, after an official ceremony to announce the successful merger Thursday afternoon. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

'A new day': Health care officials praise merger

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Could a new orthopedics center be in Bemidji's future? Kelby Krabbenhoft believes so.

Krabbenhoft, the president and CEO of Sanford Health, announced Thursday at the newly named Sanford Bemidji Medical Center that Sanford Health is in discussions with Lake Region Bone & Joint, orthopedic surgeons, in Bemidji.

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Krabbenhoft said he hopes to announce by the end of the month that Sanford Health and Lake Region Bone & Joint have come to an agreement through which they would partner and build a new orthopedics center on the northwest side of the Sanford Bemidji medical campus.

Krabbenhoft was one of six people who addressed employees and community members Thursday afternoon during a "Welcome to the Family Celebration," ushering in a new era of Bemidji health care.

On Tuesday, the merger between Sanford Health and North Country Health Services took effect, creating Sanford Bemidji.

Sanford Bemidji, legally known as Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota, includes Sanford Bemidji Medical Center and Sanford Bemidji Clinic.

The hospital and clinic now are both under common ownership.

"This is a great day for Bemidji, a great day for health care in Bemidji," said Dan Olson, the vice president of Sanford Bemidji Clinic.

Sanford Health will invest $75 million into the Bemidji community in the next 10 years, including a $5 million gift to the NCHS Foundation.

It has announced plans to expand the areas of heart, cancer, orthopedics and sports medicine, as well as research and innovation.

A partnership with Lake Region Bone & Joint would fit those plans.

"It would be a great fit," Krabbenhoft said. "Orthopedics is a giant priority of Sanford Health."

During the 30-minute presentation, health care officials praised the merger and the individuals who made it possible.

"This is a special time. I feel fortunate to represent the physicians past and present who have valued a collaborative relationship with our local hospital," said Dr. Howard Hoody, the senior vice president of Sanford Bemidji Clinic. 'This is truly a special day for so many of us."

Krabbenhoft recalled standing on the flatbed of a truck Wednesday as a new sign was erected outside of the local hospital, welcoming people to the new Sanford Bemidji campus.

"People driving by were giving me a thumbs up," Krabbenhoft said.

Throughout his career, he said, he has been a part of about 50 similar mergers.

"Each one is unique," he said. "I haven't seen this kind of enthusiasm before."

He referenced the history between the hospital and the clinic, acknowledging that their relationship has had its share of ups and downs throughout the years.

"It's almost like a relief," he said of the creation of Sanford Bemidji. "It's a new day. A new opportunity."

Pete Aube, chairman of the board of directors for Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota, recalled that it was one year ago this month that the North Country Health Services board met in the same room to re-examine its mission statement and vision for the future.

During that meeting, the board determined that NCHS would explore a partnership with another organization.

"I am so pleased today with our alignment and, really our unification ... with Sanford," Aube said. "I couldn't be more thrilled."

Aube said the partnership between NCHS and Sanford made sense.

"This came together because it really should have," he said. "It's a fit that goes beyond our wildest dreams."

Olson said he recently had dinner with some of the pioneering physicians of Bemidji, reminiscing about the milestones and advances made in health care throughout their years in medicine.

"Twenty years from now, we're going to look back into the teens (2011-2019) and look back at this day," he said.

Paul Hanson, the president of Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota, said those involved in the merger have a sense of stewardship for the community in moving forward.

The new Sanford Bemidji will take care of its assets - buildings and people - and work toward a sound future, Hanson said.

"Today is the third day of taking baby steps toward our future," he said.

Krabbenhoft said Sanford Health will deliver stability and opportunity to its employees and their families.

"We're taking the responsibility of what we're doing with this very humbly and very seriously," he said.

The plans for expanding the areas of heart, cancer, orthopedics and sports medicine, as well as research and innovation, are not empty promises, Krabbenhoft said.

"We're very excited about it. We speak with very much confidence," he said. "That's our track record, that's what our plans are, and that's what our commitment is.

"Don't doubt the resolve, the commitment, the expectations between our organizations."

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Bethany Wesley
(218) 333-9200 x337
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