University leaders share vision for health care with State Representatives
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 at the Jan. 30 joint hearing of the Minnesota House Commerce Finance & 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 make Minnesota a leader in the health of all Minnesotans 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 delivered by Frans and Tolar on Jan. 30 is included below. Additional information about the University’s vision for the future of healthcare in Minnesota can be found at bettercaremn.umn.edu.
Jakub Tolar, dean of the Medical School and vice president for clinical affairs
Thank you, Chair Stephenson, Chair Liebling, and members.
I am Jakub Tolar, Dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School and Vice President for Clinical Affairs.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment about 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 (with a high ranking 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 the 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 because of it, we are now among the top decile of U.S. Medical Schools in NIH research.
Clinical practice. It is the combination of all three of these missions that allow us to deliver high quality, innovative care — and to always be advancing care on behalf of our patients. Through University of Minnesota Physicians, our clinical arm of the Medical School, we had over 1.2 million patient visits last year.
State support is critical and has been the reason Minnesota is known for health care. And leadership from 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 meant to focus on what we believe goes to the core of this discussion, which is that this is more than a private business transaction. It is a public question that impacts the University’s ability to deliver on our mission - our obligation to the state.
Because we believe this is the central question, because we do not see this addressed in the proposal from Fairview and Sanford beyond the current contracts that last through 2026, we oppose this merger at this time.
It is also true that even with the contracts in place, the governance of this combined system would immediately move to a board without University representation — which means without your voice in decisions about the flagship facilities and the operations that should support the University’s mission.
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 upon 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 Minnesota is a destination for high-quality health care.
Chair Stephenson, Chair Liebling, and members, I would now like to turn it over to my colleague, Myron Frans to expand on this.
Myron Frans, senior vice president for finance and operations
Chair Stephenson, Chair Liebling, and members,
I am Myron Frans, the Chief Financial Officer, the Chief Operating Officer and the Treasurer at the University of Minnesota.
Thank you for inviting us here today.
On January 12, President Gabel announced 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 hinges on five key principles:
A genuine integration of teaching and research into clinical care. Our approach is not only about the clinical care of the patient, it is also about the education of their future physician. Stated simply, Academic medicine takes more time and a different approach;
University governance over flagship facilities. The University, not a healthcare system, must be in charge;
A public mission that rests 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 prudently 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 be front and center as we discuss this opportunity.
I am here today to request a delay 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: Returning control of the University’s flagship facilities to the University
And number three: Designing the operational and financial relationship with our community health systems, like 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 a meeting scheduled with them on February 1 to discuss.
We would also like to thank Attorney General Keith Ellison who has called for a slowdown of the Fairview Sanford merger. The Attorney General recognizes that “it’s more important to do this right than to do it fast.”
Finally, we request that a final agreement between Sanford and Fairview be developed with the University's involvement and that any plan is grounded in a vision that will support the public health of and health care access for Minnesotans. The plan must not divert the public nature of the University flagship hospitals and clinics from their original purpose and ongoing mission.
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