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U of Minnesota staff, students rally against Fairview, Sanford merger

More than 50 students and medical professionals from the Minneapolis-based University of Minnesota rallied Feb. 3 to protest the proposed merger between Sanford Health and Fairview Health Services, according to the Pioneer Press

Their signs carried statements like "Purge the merge," "Patients over profits" and "Community need over corporate greed," ABC affiliate KSTP reported. 

The university has openly opposed the proposed merger, which would combine Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Sanford with Minneapolis-based Fairview — the owner of the University of Minnesota Medical Center — to create a 50-plus hospital system with more than 78,000 employees. 

Nurses unions have also called for a stop to the merger, and the state's attorney general has asked to slow it down. 

"We have seen time and again that mergers result in closures, reducing patient access to care and putting nurses and other workers at risk for layoffs and lowering wages while the CEO continues to collect salaries, and theirs will continue to climb," Lisa Reed, RN, who has worked at Fairview for 28 years, said during the rally, according to KSTP

"While our medical school will be heavily impacted by this proposed merger, we have been consistently out of this conversation that directly impacts our future both as healthcare students and someday, providers," first-year medical student Christina Lan said at the rally, the Press reported. "When I decided to attend medical school, I did so with the goal of becoming an excellent physician who cares deeply about her patients' health and all of the factors that contribute to it. For this reason, I cannot be complicit in allowing corporate greed to threaten our medical school, its research or my future."

However, both Fairview and Sanford remain adamant that the University of Minnesota will not be affected by the merger, nor will it be expected to collaborate with the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine. If the merger is finalized, Sanford will abide by the current operating agreement with the university, investing $1 billion per year in the institution until the contract expires in 2026. 

"As a combined system, Fairview and Sanford Health are committed to honoring the current agreements through their expiration in 2026 including the level of funding, clinical partnership and teaching mission," said Fairview spokesperson Aimee Jordan, according to the Press. "The affiliation agreement will continue to be governed by a local, Minnesota-based board. And, the University remains independent and will continue to make its own decision about its future."

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