Union calls on South Dakota to intervene in Sanford-Fairview merger

Officials with the union representing workers affected by the proposed merger of Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Sanford Health and Minneapolis-based Fairview Health Services are voicing opposition to the proposal and calling for involvement from South Dakota lawmakers and the state's attorney general, the Argus Leader reported March 3.  

Lawmakers in Minnesota and the Minnesota attorney general have been reviewing the proposed merger, which would create a combined system with more than 50 hospitals and 78,000 employees. In February, Sanford and Fairview announced plans to extend the completion date for the deal to May 31 amid the Minnesota Attorney General's review.

Now, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers wants South Dakota officials to intervene, although the organization hadn't submitted a formal ask as of March 3, Shane Brinton, union healthcare director, told the Argus Leader.

"We'd like to see something similar in South Dakota," he said, according to the newspaper. "Much of the coverage, and much of the focus has been in Minnesota. … We're raising the alarm here, because we have a concern that this may be just as impactful for the Dakotas."

Among the concerns Mr. Brinton cited in the report are the impact the merger could have on patient care, and specifically what he sees as the potential for increased patient care cost and possible facility closures. 

Sanford views the merger as a positive combination of two organizations.

"The fundamental changes in healthcare require us to think differently about what we do today to meet the needs of our communities tomorrow," the health system said in a statement shared with Becker's. "This merger is about taking critical steps to provide the necessary financial sustainability to serve our communities for generations to come. It's about increasing access, improving quality and expanding services. Our combined system will be better for patients, caregivers, employees and our communities."  

Sanford spokesperson Paul Heinert told the Argus Leader Sanford and Fairview would be willing to comply should the South Dakota attorney general call for public hearings over the planned merger.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley told the newspaper his office is not planning listening sessions right now but shared the following statement: "There are differences in the laws and regulations between Minnesota and South Dakota concerning this proposed merger with South Dakota's law focusing on charitable and non-profit aspects. I have talked to Minnesota Attorney General Ellison about this issue, and I anticipate continued communication. At this time, this office continues to monitor the situation to ensure compliance with South Dakota requirements."

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