Capitol hearing to explore potential Fairview-Sanford merger

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson in a file photo from Dec. 12, 2012.
MPR Photo/Elizabeth Dunbar

Representatives from three health care organizations are expected to testify Sunday afternoon at the state Capitol about potential mergers. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is also inviting the public to weigh in at the hearing, which starts at 1:30 p.m.

The hearing will focus on the ramifications of a potential merger between the nonprofit Fairview Health Services and the rural health care giant Sanford Health.

The two health care organizations say they have only agreed to discussions, but that was a cause of concern for Swanson.

Sanford, which is based in Sioux Falls, S.D., runs clinics in eight states. Minneapolis-based Fairview, which also includes the University of Minnesota Hospital, has a net worth of $1.2 billion, largely from support of Minnesotans through tax breaks, donations and land, Swanson said.

"If a South Dakota organization takes control, where does the money go?" she said.

Swanson said her office wants to launch a public dialogue: "The notion that a South Dakota organization might come and take control of Fairview, a charitable institution, which includes in it the University of Minnesota Hospital raises a lot of troubling concerns."

In another twist, the University of Minnesota said it also wants to acquire Fairview. Fairview's interim CEO said he will meet with officials at the University of Minnesota on Monday to talk over the U's plan.