Dakota Health Systems' Merger Would Create One of Nation's Largest Integrated Systems

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , July 17, 2009

After four months of negotiations, South Dakota-based Sanford Health and North Dakota-based MeritCare Health System have signed a letter of intent to merge as equals and create one of the nation's largest integrated healthcare systems.

Sanford and MeritCare officials say the unified system would strengthen healthcare in the five-state region that the two separate systems now cover by expanding services, education, research, and access to care. Both organizations hope to reach a final agreement and resolve regulatory issues by fall.

"As two proven leaders in integrated healthcare, our new system would make us think beyond our historic perspectives in caring for the thousands who come to us daily," says Kelby Krabbenhoft, Sanford president/CEO, who would become CEO of the new system if the merger is finalized.

"Becoming a larger system is simply building on the depth and range of two already large organizations. That reality is more humbling than it is anything else," Krabbenhoft says. "Together, we would grow and improve the delivery of medicine; deliver on the promise of results in research; and deliver on the promise of medical and health education."

MeritCare President/CEO Roger Gilbertson, MD, will retire at the merger's completion.

"Together, Sanford and MeritCare would bring the full potential of two integrated care systems to the benefit of patients, communities, employees, and physicians," Gilbertson says. "We would add value for patients, be proactive in healthcare reform, attract talent including doctors, nurses, health professional, and others that would significantly advance the service sophistication of our organizations and promote economic development in our communities."

Key principles in the proposed merger provide that:

  • The goal of both MeritCare and Sanford is to improve healthcare delivery in the Fargo and Sioux Falls service areas

  • All governing boards would have representatives from across the region

  • Physicians would have a strong voice in the new health system

  • There will be a commitment to maintain corporate offices in Sioux Falls and Fargo

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