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Changes were noticeable Tuesday at the former MeritCare Clinic as employees, including Stacie Frey, donned clothing displaying the new name of the health care system, now known as Sanford Health. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Sanford Health officially unveils new name, mission

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Phones now will be answered a little differently at clinics in Bemidji.

Sanford Health, headquartered in Sioux Falls, S.D., and MeritCare, based in Fargo, N.D., merged in November 2009 and became Sanford Health-MeritCare.

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But as of Tuesday, the health care system now will simply be known as Sanford Health, working under one name, mission and vision.

"Today is the day we actually come together as one organization," said Dan Olson, vice president of Sanford Clinic Bemidji. Olson spent much of Tuesday driving back and forth between Bemidji and Fargo attending company picnics celebrating the merger.

"There were new Sanford T-shirt giveaways and there was a lot of talk about what the merger is really all about and our mission and values," Olson said.

According to the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce, MeritCare (now Sanford Health) is the city's fourth-largest employer, hiring approximately 423 full-time equivalent employees. The top three employers, in order, are North Country Regional Services, Bemidji State University and the Bemidji School District.

Sanford Health is a $2.25 billion organization with locations in 120 communities and six states. It is now the largest, rural, nonprofit health care system in the nation. It includes 30 hospitals, 111 clinic locations and more than 800 physicians in 70 specialty areas of medicine. With more than 18,000 employees, Sanford Health is the largest employer in North and South Dakota.

The health system was named in honor of Denny Sanford, a South Dakota businessman and philanthropist who made a $400 million gift to Sioux Valley Health System in Sioux Falls in 2007. The donation was the largest gift ever given to a health care organization in America.

According to Olson, people in Bemidji will likely see changes in the future with regards to the merger, mostly for the better.

"There will be physical changes like new name badges, signs replaced and new logos, but people should expect to receive the same great care," Olson said. "We are optimistic that this merger will provide the opportunities to grow our business in the region. There's a lot of excitement with the merger. It's a great opportunity to grow in the region."

Olson said one of the main challenges the merger will have will be educating the public about the new organization. However, he said, marketing plans set in place have been effective at getting the word out.

"Sanford Health is very community-minded and it will be very visible in the community," Olson said.

A new naming architecture has been developed to create Sanford Health's new logo. All names in the Fargo region have changed to align with the new brand.

The new Sanford Health logo emphasizes the Lorraine cross (in the O) to convey its new approach to health care delivery. According to Sanford Health, the Lorraine cross is a historic symbol used as a rally point in battle and to signify liberation and a crusade for health.

In a press release, Sanford Health claims it is growing and has big plans to hire more employees in the future. Since the merger last November the company also claims more than 500 new people have been hired and there are plans to hire more in the coming year.

In the Fargo region, construction projects include a Sanford-YMCA Wellness Center at Urban Plains, remodeling of the same-day surgery center and planning for a new hospital at Agassiz Crossing. There will be clinic expansion in Detroit Lakes and a new hospital in Thief River Falls.

Olson said he couldn't comment on whether or not Bemidji clinics will be upgraded because he did not know for sure.

The Sanford Health clinic in Blackduck is currently getting remodeled this week, Olson said.

In Fargo, several signs have already been replaced at the downtown and South University campuses. The investment to change signage is approximately $3 million for 2011 for the entire health system.

Sanford Health has assured people that visible change will be phased in over two years. Many printed materials such as brochures and forms will be replaced as needed. Other items such as linens and scrubs will be replaced over time as new stock is needed. The previous Sanford red and MeritCare burgundy scrubs will go away. At this time, no decisions have been made on standards scrub colors for employees.

For more information visit www.sanfordheath.org.

awilliams@bemidjipioneer.com

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