Sanford merger, plans could affect JRMC’s futureThe merger of two health care systems with facilities in Jamestown could have lasting effects on care in the area and the local hospital’s future. On July 3, Sanford Health and Medcenter One officially merged after getting approval from Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. Over the next year Medcenter One will make the transition to the Sanford name.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
The merger of two health care systems with facilities in Jamestown could have lasting effects on care in the area and the local hospital’s future.
On July 3, Sanford Health and Medcenter One officially merged after getting approval from Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. Over the next year Medcenter One will make the transition to the Sanford name.
In November 2009, Sanford merged with MeritCare. The following July, Jamestown’s MeritCare clinic became a Sanford Clinic.
As of Wednesday, Sanford had announced no concrete plans regarding its most recent merger and the impact that will have on its services here or the Medcenter One clinic in Jamestown.
“Sanford has not made any decisions about the future of our services in Jamestown, planning groups will begin to meet in the coming months. Our guiding principle is to always do what’s best for our patients; we’ve found when you do that you can’t go wrong,” said a statement from Jeff Sandene, chief operating officer for Sanford’s Fargo region. “We are excited about the possibilities for Sanford Jamestown and the people we serve in that region.”
Sanford Health, based in Fargo and Sioux Falls, S.D., includes 34 hospitals, 116 clinic locations and more than 1,000 physicians. It describes itself as the nation’s largest rural, nonprofit health system, with locations in 112 communities in seven states.
The potential for
Sanford broke ground Tuesday for a $541 million hospital in Fargo.
Jamestown Regional Medical Center opened in July 2011 with a price tag of $52 million. The independent hospital has 25 beds and serves nine counties.
Essentia, another Jamestown clinic, will relocate to the Jamestown Regional Medical Building on JRMC’s campus.
Sanford is aware of the importance of health care for Jamestown’s location in North Dakota, according to Sandene.
“Jamestown is a crucial piece of the North Dakota health care landscape. Its central location and easy access from I-94 make Jamestown an important hub for services,” Sandene’s statement said. “Sanford’s merger and growth in western North Dakota give us a significant presence in the Jamestown region.”
Sanford would not provide further information. Sandene declined to comment about any plans for Sanford to add facilities in Jamestown or how it would affect health care here as Sanford has yet to make any formal plans.
The possibility of Sanford adding a medical facility in Jamestown that does the same procedures as the hospital is a concern for hospital officials. Such a facility could pull enough patients from the hospital to severely hurt its ability to stay open, JRMC CEO Todd Hudspeth said.
“(It’s) a risk we take seriously,” Hudspeth said. “We’re also hopeful the Sanford leadership is sensitive to the local needs of the community.
“Simply put, the community can’t support two surgery centers in town. If Sanford put a surgery center in town, that would do tremendous damage to the hospital,” he said.
JRMC serves patients from a 50-mile radius. The hospital provides many services for patients in surrounding rural communities.
Dennis Pozarnsky, a member of the JRMC Board of Directors, said he doesn’t see Sanford opening a facility that takes away from what JRMC already provides in Jamestown for local patients and others in rural communities.
Connie Krapp, interim chair of the JRMC Board of Directors, said regardless of what Sanford does or does not do, that JRMC will put patients’ health care as its first priority.
“I want people to know, to be assured, that we here in Jamestown are committed to putting the patient first,” she said. “That we will use every resource available to us in diagnosing and treating them and that we will recognize and advocate for those patients that can be best treated elsewhere.”
Health care choices
With the merger between Sanford and Medcenter One, about three-fourths of physicians in Jamestown will work under the Sanford flag, according to Krapp.
“You could probably go to Sanford to have health care needs taken care of, or you could go out of the system,” she said. “The fewer systems that are present in a community means there are fewer choices.”
However, Krapp said when there is a need for specialty services, people have a right to choose where they want to go.
“We have a good variety of specialists only 100 miles south, east or west of Jamestown. And we also have world-class resources like Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota that can be easily accessed as well,” she said. “I would like to see all of these options for specialty care to be readily available to all patients, anytime the need is there. Our patients deserve the best, wherever that is, and I want them to know that once they step through our doors, they’ll have it.”
Hudspeth said he does not expect any changes to local physicians’ on-call schedule after the merger.
“The local physicians at all three clinics, even though they’re competitors, they’ve had a great collaborative effort working together at the hospital,” Hudspeth said.
Thirteen family practice physicians and one internal medicine physician participate in the on-call rotation for the hospital. There is one physician on call for all three clinics as well.
Four surgeons participate in the on-call rotation — two general surgeons, one orthopedic and one OB/GYN surgeon.
Krapp credits the working arrangement to Marty Richman, former hospital CEO and president.
“It’s really made an impact and it’s created a better synergy for all of us,” she said. “It was the beginning of some good relations in terms of the health care providers in the community.
“We’d like to see that continue and we’re really hopeful that this merger won’t impact that,” she said.
She said it’s an important rotation not only because of the collaboration, but because there isn’t as much of a burden for physicians to be on call as often.
Pozarnsky said the board will do all they can to keep the on-call rotation in place.
“We hope it continues so we can provide the best care possible for residents of this region — that includes the rural residents,” he said.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at email@example.com