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The parent organizations of the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society and Ebenezer Senior Living have extended the timeline of their proposed merger by two months following calls for a delay by the Minnesota attorney general and others

Fairview Health Services and Sanford Health, the parent organizations of the Good Samaritan and Ebenezer, respectively, originally announced their intentions to merge publicly in November

“We have voluntarily extended our target planning date for completion of the merger to May 31, 2023,” a joint statement issued Friday read. “Consistent with our statements at the attorney general’s community meetings and at the legislature, we continue to work cooperatively with the attorney general to ensure they have the information necessary for their review. In the meantime, we continue to do the important planning work within our organizations to be ready to best serve our patients and people on day one following close.”

The University of Minnesota, a partner with Fairview, has been a vocal opponent and joined Attorney General Keith Ellison in calling for a delay of the merger, which was scheduled for March 31. Ellison’s office, which had called for a delay in January, released a statement saying that the providers have yet to comply with repeated requests for information.

“Additional time is not enough on its own to ensure that Minnesotans’ interests are protected — the parties need to provide full responses to the attorney general’s office’s requests with sufficient time for review and analysis,” the statement read. “We are considering all options available to us to secure compliance.”

Several state legislators concerned about the timeline of the proposed merger drafted legislation that would add more oversight to healthcare transactions, including mergers. 

HF402 would set guidelines on oversight of this and all future hospital mergers and sales that might affect healthcare in the state. The bill, sent to the state House Health Finance and Policy Committee, would require the state Department of Health, in consultation with the attorney general, to review proposed sales or mergers of hospitals or healthcare systems to determine whether they would “benefit the public good or improve health outcomes for Minnesota residents.”

The September letter of intent for the merger, released Monday, details certain aspects of the proposed merger. In connection with the closing, Sanford Health will invest $500 million in Minnesota healthcare facilities now served by Fairview Health.

“This significant investment reflects our foundational commitment to ensuring increased access to exceptional healthcare for Minnesotans for generations to come,” a joint statement issued Monday read.

The two health providers said they signed the letter of intent “to create a combined system that will be well positioned to reinvest in and strengthen local hospitals and the communities we serve across the state.”

They added that Sanford Health’s track record in Bemidji, Fargo-Moorhead, Thief River Falls, Worthington and other communities “demonstrates our commitment to making the investments necessary to expand services and increase access to world-class care.”

The letter also references “cornerstone commitments” between Sanford Health and Denny Sanford, who has donated almost $1.5 billion to the health system since 2004 and will declare Sanford Health as the primary beneficiary of his estate, according to SiouxFalls.business.  

The combined system, which will take on the Sanford Health brand, will remain a not-for-profit, based in North Dakota and headquartered in Sioux Falls. The merger also will not result in layoffs for nonexecutive employees, or the closure or sale of facilities, and existing collective bargaining agreements will be honored. 

Addressing concerns raised during public hearings, the combined system will honor the current affiliation agreement with the University of Minnesota through 2026. Students and faculty members, however, said they are concerned about the future of ongoing research once that pledge expires, according to the Minnesota Reformer.

Good Samaritan is the second largest not-for-profit multi-site senior living and care organization in the country based on total number of units, according to the 2022 LeadingAge Ziegler 200 lists. It ranked No. 3 for assisted living, No. 4 for independent living and No. 1 for skilled nursing.

The provider, however, recently announced plans to exit 15 states and reduce its resident and patient count by approximately 30% as it consolidates services to the Midwest.

Ebenezer also made the LZ 200 list of largest not-for-profit multi-site senior living and care organizations in the country, at No. 158 overall, No. 56 for assisted living, No. 197 for independent living and No. 104 for skilled nursing. On a separate list, Ebenezer ranked No. 1 as far as number of managed-only units, and it ranked No. 5 on a list combining market rate and managed units.