Fairview, Sanford CEOs express support for U of M plan to buy campus health facilities

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Less than two weeks after University of Minnesota officials announced a plan to ask for nearly $1 billion from state lawmakers in an effort to acquire campus health care facilities from Fairview, the health system’s head is expressing support for the plan.

Monday, Fairview Health Services President and CEO James Hereford, along with Sanford Health President and CEO Bill Gassen, penned a joint letter of support for the university’s five-point plan, particularly if it helps clear the way for the health systems’ merger.

RELATED: U of M requests nearly $1 billion from state in first phase of reacquiring campus health care facilities

The U of M’s plan includes the university acquiring the medical center facilities on the east and west banks, as well as Masonic Children’s Hospital and the clinics and surgery center.

“This is consistent with our long-standing position that Fairview and the combined system are indeed willing to sell these assets to the University to support its mission of research, education, and public health,” the health systems’ leaders wrote.

Tuesday, University of Minnesota Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations Myron Frans and Dr. Jakub Tolar, the university’s vice president for clinical affairs and dean of the medical school, are scheduled to testify at the State Capitol as lawmakers consider the proposed Fairview-Sanford merger. Also scheduled to talk at that meeting are former Minnesota governors Mark Dayton and Tim Pawlenty.

While Fairview and Sanford announced last month that they’d push back their self-imposed merger deadline by two months — from the end of March to the end of May — they’ve expressed their intention to move forward with the merger quickly, saying it’d “strengthen our financial footing” and improve service for patients.

Critics have expressed skepticism of that, and U of M leaders had previously noted concerns about the prospect of the university’s medical center being controlled by an out-of-state entity, which led to the university’s proposal to buy the facilities. However, the cost of that purchase could be another potential issue.

“Now that the University has made public its request for specific funding levels relative to this proposal, a mutually agreeable valuation process should begin to determine the appropriate level of consideration for these assets,” Hereford and Gassen said in their letter.