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Bemidji hospital plans on merger with Sanford Health

The board of trustees at North Country Health Services in Bemidji, Minn., has signed a letter of intent to merge with Sanford Health, based in Fargo and Sioux Falls, S.D., Sanford announced this morning.

The Sanford board of trustees has approved the direction of the letter and is expected to sign it during the board's meeting Friday, according to a news release from Sanford spokesman Darren Huber.

North Country and Sanford Clinic in Bemidji have worked together for many years, and by integrating, $75 million would be invested into the community through facilities, recruitment and technology over the next 10 years, the release stated. A portion of the total investment, a $5 million gift, will be given to the NCHS Foundation to begin that process.

"Joining with Sanford in a fully integrated model of care is truly a natural progression of our long-standing relationship. With an eye toward the future, we are seeking new ways of improving health and access to care for people across the entire region, including key services like heart, cancer, orthopedics and neuroscience," Paul Hanson, CEO and president of NCHS, stated in the news release.

The integrated clinic and hospital in Bemidji will be a not-for-profit, community-based health care system. It will combine the experience of the two health care organizations, which will increase efficiency and lead to better coordination of patient care, the release stated.

"With the current emphasis on health care reform calling for change, we are humbled by the opportunity to increase efficiency and be a model for health care delivery the rest of the nation will follow," said Kelby Krabbenhoft, CEO and president of Sanford Health.

During the next several months, the organizations will develop a final agreement and any necessary regulatory applications. They'll also share their vision for the future and answer questions from stakeholders and the community, the release stated.

North Country has more than 900 employees, 25,000 emergency visits per year, 5,500 acute admissions per year and 1,000 births.

Sanford Clinic Bemidji has 75 physicians, 15 mid-level providers and 550 employees.