Fairview, Sanford delay merger again

The proposed merger of two major health care systems has been delayed once again.

Fairview Health Services and Sanford Health have pushed back the target closing date for their planned merger for a second time, the companies confirmed Monday.

A spokesperson for Fairview sent the following statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS:

“In the interest of ongoing cooperation with the Office of the Minnesota Attorney General, we have extended the target closing date for our merger until after May 31st and agreed to their request for 90 days’ notice prior to closing at a future date. We respect the thorough review underway by the Attorney General’s Office and are honoring their request for more time as we continue work toward finalizing our combination. We remain confident in the benefits of the merger for our people, patients and communities and our shared vision to advance world-class health care for all we serve.”

The announcement comes days after the companies’ initial self-imposed deadline, March 31. However, in February, the companies agreed to push that deadline to May 31 before Monday’s announcement, which means a closing is now unlikely until the middle of summer at the earliest.

A spokesperson for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison provided the following statement:

“The Attorney General’s Office learned last week that Fairview leadership has decided to postpone its plans to merge with Sanford. Although we are still learning the details of Fairview’s plans, we agree that it is imperative for Fairview leadership to focus their attention on the critical issues facing the health system — including its declining financial condition and its relationship with the University of Minnesota.

“In the meantime, the Attorney General’s investigation will continue. Sanford and Fairview are still collectively expressing an intent to merge and have agreed to give the Attorney General’s Office at least a 90-day notice before any new target closing date. We will continue to investigate issues like the circumstances surrounding Fairview’s declining financial health and its plans for a path forward.”

The proposed merger has faced plenty of opposition since the plan was first announced in November.

Since then, Ellison’s office held several public forums to allow Minnesotans to provide feedback on the merger and called for more time to review the proposal. Medical professionals and students from the University of Minnesota Medical School have also rallied in protest of the proposed merger.

In February, the U of M announced a plan to acquire campus health care facilities from Fairview in light of the planned merger, and the heads of Fairview and Sanford expressed support for that plan. However, it’s unclear exactly how much that could cost.