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North Country Health Services and Sanford merger to become effective Tuesday

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The merger between North Country Health Services and Sanford Health will be effective next week.

Sanford and NCHS announced Friday that the final approval and contract-signing has occurred, which will bring the two organizations together effective March 1.

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Sanford Health already owns the former MeritCare Clinic as of November 2009, so the hospital and clinic will be members of the same corporation.

Sanford Bemidji will consist of Sanford Bemidji Medical Center and Sanford Bemidji Clinic and will operate under the legal name of Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota, based in Bemidji. Sanford Bemidji will serve as the regional hub for Sanford Health in northern Minnesota.

"This is the first step in the integration of the two Bemidji-based organizations with a mission to provide more seamless, coordinated care for patients close to home," stated a news release. Plans are underway to expand the areas of heart, cancer, orthopedics and sports medicine and women's health, as well as research and education.

Sanford plans to invest $70 million in resources throughout the next 10 years and will immediately make a $5 million gift to the NCHS Foundation.

"A yearlong evaluation process revealed many ways for us to better serve the region together as an integrated provider," said Kelby Krabbenhoft, CEO of Sanford Health, in the release. "We will combine the resources of a strong regional health care institution and a multi-specialty physician clinic, together with the Sanford Health System, to offer more primary and specialty care services and new programs in research and education. Our goals were the same - to make Bemidji a regional referral center in northern Minnesota and this merger will enable us to do so."

This is the final step in the affiliation process, but it is the first step in the integration of the two organizations. The full integration of the systems will continue as an on-going process over many months.

"Both NCHS and Sanford Bemidji Clinic have deep roots in this region as well as a legacy of community service," said Paul Hanson, president/CEO of NCHS, in the release. "At a time of great change in health care, we see this affiliation as an opportunity to grow and provide quality health care to the people of this region now and for years to come."

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