University groups react to idea of Fairview takeover, Med Student Council will discuss the issue at its next meeting


A possible takeover of Fairview Health Services has some University of Minnesota medical students and physicians concerned.

Fairview, which controls the University of Minnesota Medical Center, announced last week a merger with the South Dakota-based Sanford Health system is in the “very early stages.”

However, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson said the talks are getting serious, and she will be holding hearings at the Capitol to discuss the merger.

“I would hope that the public dialogue that comes from those hearings would help inform the Fairview board of directors as well as to what’s in the best interest to the people of Minnesota,” Swanson said.

Second-year medical student Evan James said he has some concerns about the potential takeover’s effects on the University’s medical education and research.

The merger could put the Minnesota nonprofit’s more than $1.2 billion net worth into the hands of an out-of-state company, Swanson said.

“I’m sure the University is on top of that,” James said. “But just the continued emphasis in educating the next generation of physicians would be my main concern.”

James said he hopes Sanford would continue to support physician’s research in the same way Fairview has.

A change in power could affect the required clerkships — practical medical experience in a hospital — of third- and fourth-year medical students, said Amin Alishahi, University Medical Student Council president.

University hospitals can shift resources to accommodate more student clerkships when there are too many for other hospitals, Alishahi said.

If Sanford is not able to make the same accommodations, he said, it could be more difficult for medical students to complete their required clerkship.

“I don’t anticipate that to happen, but that’s kind of the big concern,” Alishahi said.

He said Fairview also offers simulation labs to supplement the University’s medical curriculum.

“Taking that control out of the University obviously can create tension, and maybe different resources would be shifted differently,” Alishahi said.

Alishahi will bring up the potential takeover with the MSC executive council, and possibly the entire council, during the next meeting April 10.

Fairview is the largest partner of University of Minnesota Physicians, CEO Bobbi Daniels said in a written statement Friday.

“Any potential change in UMPhysician’s relationship with Fairview must be carefully evaluated in order to assure that we can continue to meet our various missions,” Daniels said in the statement.

Eighty percent of UMPhysician’s patient care occurs in Fairview facilities.

Fairview took control of the UMMC in 1997 and made a commitment to support research and education.

The University Office of the General Counsel will be investigating the governance, financial, legal and structural aspects of the potential takeover, General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said.

“We’re kicking the tires, so to speak,” he said.

Swanson is hosting the public hearings at the Capitol on April 7 to address public concern, she said.

“It’s something important not just for the University, not just for the [Academic Health Center] but really for all of Minnesota,” Swanson said. “It’s a very, very important issue for the entire state.”