U of M leaders Myron Frans, senior vice president for finance and operations, and Dr. Jakub Tolar, dean of the University’s globally recognized medical school and vice president for clinical affairs, testified Jan. 30 at the Minnesota House Commerce Finance joint hearing. & Policy and Health Finance & Policy Committees. Frans and Tolar were invited to share the University’s position on the proposed merger of the Fairview and Sanford health systems, as well as to outline the University’s MPact Health Care Innovation vision.
Earlier this month, Frans, Tolar and U of M President Joan Gabel announced the MPact Health Care Innovation vision, an opportunity to significantly advance the University’s leadership and partnerships to strengthen Minnesota’s health care and health professions, and of Minnesota to make a leader in the health of all in Minnesota for generations to come. A summary of the five key points of the MPact Health Care Innovation vision can be found here.
The prepared written testimony given by Frans and Tolar on January 30 is included below. Additional information about the University’s vision for the future of health care in Minnesota can be found at bettercaremn.umn.edu.
Jakub Tolar, dean of the Medical School and vice president for clinical affairs
Thank you, Chairman Stephenson, Chairman Liebling, and members.
I am Jakub Tolar, Dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School and Vice President for Clinical Affairs.
Thanks for the opportunity to comment on the Fairview/Sanford combination.
This discussion has a very significant potential impact on the University of Minnesota, our Medical School and our physician faculty, and health care delivery in Minnesota.
We are the only public medical school in the state. Our mission is to serve all of Minnesota in 3 ways:
Education and training. We train 70% of Minnesota’s physicians (ranking high nationally for training rural physicians). We are also one of only a handful of universities nationwide that also train nurses, pharmacists, dentists and other healthcare professionals. With workforce shortages – now and growing – your partnership in training is a high priority.
Research and innovation. We are grateful for the state’s support of our research and as a result we are now among the top decile of US Medical Schools in NIH research.
Clinical practice. It is the combination of all three of these missions that enables us to deliver high quality, innovative care – and to always advance care on behalf of our patients. Through the University of Minnesota Physicians, our clinical division of the Medical School, we had more than 1.2 million patient visits last year.
State support is critical and has been the reason Minnesota is known for health care. And leadership of the state in expanding and improving access to and the quality of care is something we are grateful to be a part of.
This background is intended to focus on what we believe goes to the heart of this discussion, which is that this is more than a private business transaction. This is a public question that has an impact on the University’s ability to deliver our mission – our obligation to the state.
Because we believe that is the central question, because we do not see it being addressed in the Fairview and Sanford proposal beyond the current contracts that run through 2026, we oppose this merger at this time.
It is also true that even with the contracts in place, management of this combined system will immediately move to a board without University representation — meaning without your voice in decisions about the flagship facilities and the operations that should support the University’s mission. support.
We are now presented with a landmark opportunity to chart Minnesota’s health care future and the future of the University and its Medical School.
Our vision calls for us to seize the moment—to improve access for all Minnesotans to academic medicine, to advance the practice of medicine and how we deliver it, and to ensure that Minnesota is a destination is for high quality healthcare.
Chairman Stephenson, Chairman Liebling and members, I would now like to turn it over to my colleague, Myron Frans to elaborate on this.
Myron Frans, senior vice president for finance and operations
Chairman Stephenson, Chairman Liebling, and members,
I’m Myron French, the CFO, COO and Treasurer at the University of Minnesota.
Thank you for inviting us here today.
On January 12, President Gabel announced that the MPact Health Care Innovation vision.
This vision centers on the commitment that all Minnesotans have access to a top-tier, nation-leading academic health system that makes a difference in their lives. That vision depends on five key principles:
A true integration of teaching and research in clinical care. Our approach is not only about the clinical care of the patient, it is also about the education of their future physician. Simply put, Academic medicine takes more time and a different approach;
University Management on Flagship Facilities. The University, not a health care system, should be in charge;
A public mission that relies on relationships with health systems throughout the state, maximizing the reach of that mission. We understand that the value of our research, our teaching, and our care is best maximized when it is shared broadly with every practitioner in the state.
We have been carefully and strategically acquiring land for a new hospital for years. This is more than a dream, it is a requirement to ensure the quality of teaching and research that healthcare professionals require. We need your help to make this a reality.
While we await the new hospital, we will need your help to maintain the flagship facilities.
The mission of the University and the public interests of the State must come first as we discuss this opportunity.
I am here today to request a postponement of the merger until Fairview, Sanford and the University of Minnesota agree on a comprehensive plan to address essential issues in our five-point plan,
In particular number two: The return of control of the University’s flagship facilities to the University
And number three: Designing the operational and financial relationship with our community health systems, such as Fairview or perhaps Sanford, to incentivize all parties to assist the University in delivering world-class academic health care.
We have shared these requirements with Fairview and Sanford and have scheduled a meeting with them on February 1st to discuss.
We also want to thank Attorney General Keith Ellison who called for a slowdown of the Fairview Sanford merger. The Attorney General acknowledges that “it is more important to do it right than to do it quickly.”
Finally, we request that a final agreement be developed between Sanford and Fairview with the University’s involvement and that any plan be based on a vision that will support the public health of and access to health care for Minnesotans. The plan must not distract the public nature of the University’s flagship hospitals and clinics from their original purpose and continuing mission.