Monday, April 8, 2013

Former Senator Dave Durenberger Asks 
Some Pertinent Question about the Sanford,
Fairview and University of Minnesota
Ménage à trois


Elected officials in Minnesota are asking to play a role in deciding whether our largest nonprofit, The Mayo Clinic, will grow its future in our state and whether Sanford Health, because it’s a South Dakota nonprofit, should be allowed to become a Mayo competitor in Minnesota by acquiring a controlling interest in Fairview Health and its relationship with the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center and physicians practice group; or, whether the University of Minnesota and its Board of Regents should be allowed to acquire Fairview Health.

The Minnesota Legislature has been asked by Mayo to help finance a part of the development costs which will make the state’s largest employer twice its current size, to make Rochester, MN, one of just a handful of “Destination Health Care Cities” anywhere in the world.

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, citing a century of public investment in both the UMN and Fairview, wants to know what a hospital system from Sioux Falls, S.D., with a wealthy benefactor from St. Paul, has in mind. And UMN President Eric Kaler suggests we the people might benefit from a UMN takeover of Fairview.

No one so far has asked us, the people of Minnesota who finance all these institutions, what we think about selling our interest in Fairview to the U or to Sanford or what stake we have in investing in a Destination Health Care City.
With health care costing what it does today, and health reform being as complex and as polarizingly political as it is, 7 or 8 million people living in Minnesota, the Dakotas, northwestern Iowa and western Wisconsin might have more at stake in knowing what’s up than the legislative tax committees, the Legislature’s appointees to the UMN Regents, or the attorney general. So why not ask both Mayo and Sanford to tell us what they see health care being like 10 years from now if they get their way? Old time experts at the U suggest it may not be worth our time to ask the university since it may be part of the problem, but why not ask them all?

What’s the future of health care in our community; of health care research; of health professions education? To whom should we entrust this future? To the institutions that have helped create the cost/quality/access problems we are paying for? What’s at stake for those of us who will be reaping the benefits of the presumed better health care quality and access, while paying the bill for it as well? Yes, and what’s that bill likely to be if the stakeholders in the health system get their way compared with where we’d be without their new investments of our resources?

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