North Country Health Services and Sanford Health Announce Plans to Join Together

Thursday, November 18, 2010 –

Joy Johnson
North Country Health Services
(218) 333-6422 / [email protected]

Darren Huber
Sanford Media – Fargo Region
(701) 200-6080 / [email protected]


(Bemidji, MN) – Two long standing health care systems announced today plans to combine their strengths and expertise, which will offer greater depth and breadth of services to people in northern Minnesota. North Country Health Services (NCHS), based in Bemidji, MN, and Sanford Health, based in Fargo, ND and Sioux Falls, SD, announced the NCHS Board of Trustees has signed a Letter of Intent (LOI), meaning both organizations will begin the process of joining together to create a new, integrated health care delivery system. The Sanford Board of Trustees has approved the direction of the LOI and is expected to sign the document during the board meeting this Friday.

"North Country Health Services and Sanford Health announced today our intent to come together as one organization, better positioning us to lead in northern Minnesota by delivering innovative health care and expanding our capabilities in highly specialized areas of medicine," said Dr. Jim Bensen, North Country board of trustees.

Coming together enhances an already solid relationship between NCHS and Sanford Health. By integrating, $75 million would be invested into the community through facilities, recruitment and technology over the next ten years. A portion of the total investment, a $5 million gift, will be given to the NCHS Foundation to begin that process. NCHS and Sanford Clinic Bemidji have worked together for many years. Both have deep roots in the Bemidji region and have a strong reputation for quality and excellence in staff, technology and service.

"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," said Paul Hanson, CEO and president, NCHS.

The fully 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.

"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, Sanford Health. "This is the perfect time to pursue ways we can work together to grow and improve our services in northern Minnesota. We can add value for patients, be proactive in health care reform and attract talent, including doctors, nurses and other health professionals who will significantly advance the services we offer."

Over the next several months, both organizations will work together on additional analyses, due diligence and communications to develop a final agreement and any necessary regulatory applications. They will also take this opportunity to share their vision for the future as a combined organization and answer questions from stakeholders and the community.

NCHS Background
NCHS has more than 900 employees, 25,000 emergency visits per year, 5,500 acute admissions per year and 1,000 births. The NCHS campus also includes a large outpatient rehab center. Bemidji has a population of more than 13,000 people and serves as the commercial hub and a vital link to services for people in a broad region of northern Minnesota.

NCHS opened in 1898 and is an acute care hospital serving a region of approximately 100,000 people in northern Minnesota. It contains approximately 80 acute hospital beds: 16 acute rehabilitation beds: 12 acute geriatric psychiatric beds: 78 skilled nursing home beds, 120 assisted living apartments, including a distinct dementia unit: a durable medical equipment company: a Class A licensed homecare agency and Medicare certified-hospice program.

Sanford Background
Sanford Health is now the largest rural, not-for-profit health care system in the nation, with a presence in 110 communities in eight states. In addition, Sanford Health is in the process of developing international clinics in Belize and Ireland.

Sanford Clinic Bemidji has 75 physicians, 15 mid-level providers and 550 employees. Sanford Health includes 30 hospitals, 111 clinic locations and more than 800 physicians in 70 specialty areas of medicine. With more than 18,000 employees, Sanford Health is the largest employer in North and South Dakota. The system is experiencing dynamic growth and development in conjunction with Denny Sanford's $400 million gift in 2007, the largest gift ever to a health care organization in America. This gift is making possible the implementation of several initiatives including global children's clinics, multiple research centers and finding a cure for type 1 diabetes. For more information, visit



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