Kelby Krabbenhoft

Sioux Falls, SD-based Sanford Health, which finalized its affiliation with the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society earlier this year, now has signed a letter of intent to explore merging with Des Moines, IA-based Unity Health, the organizations announced Friday.

The two organizations hope to complete the transaction by the end of the year, pending regulatory reviews.

“We believe that in the very near future, fully integrated health systems will drive greater value through affordable options for high-quality healthcare to patients, governments and employers,” Kelby Krabbenhoft, president and CEO of Sanford Health. “The combination of Sanford and UnityPoint will help both organizations better meet this need, creating a new system positioned for continued growth across a broad geography.”

Combined, Sanford and Unity would rank among the top 15 largest nonprofit health systems in the country, with more than $11 billion in operating revenue, according to the organizations. The new organization would employ more than 83,000 staff members and 2,600 physicians and have operations in 26 states and nine countries, including post-acute care, hospitals, clinics, health plans and networks, research and other lines of business.

Leaders of the organizations still are in discussions, but they have agreed that, if the entities merge, Krabbenhoft will be president and CEO, and UnityPoint President and CEO Kevin Vermeer will become senior executive vice president. A new board would govern the combined company.

Sanford counts among its offerings more than 200 Good Sam senior living and care locations in 26 states and nine countries, as well as 44 hospitals. Unity, which operates in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, has 32 hospitals and 280 physician clinics and offers home care, inpatient skilled nursing, transitional care, rehabilitation, inpatient behavioral healthcare for those aged 55 or more years, and a post-acute provider team that provides care at preferred long-term care facilities.

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