Merger of U and Fairview sees increased talks

The collaboration would integrate the systems and reorganize collaboration in education, research and clinical service.

by Jessica Van Berkel

A merger between Fairview Health Services and the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center, a project long in the works, is coming closer to realization. The merger would realign education, research and clinical service. It would also combine University of Minnesota Physicians and Fairview to form a single group practice, and create a Chief Executive Officer accountable for the entire system. If the proposal is made, changes would start about a year later, Dr. Mark Paller, executive vice dean of the Medical School said. Dr. Frank Cerra, dean of the Medical School, presented the idea to the Board of Regents on Oct. 8, and a report of the presentation was made at a meeting of the UniversityâÄôs Senate Committee on Finance and Planning Oct. 20. Committee members questioned how the merger would affect the UniversityâÄôs academic mission. âÄúItâÄôs important to make certain we maintain the balance between education, research and service, and that the service component isnâÄôt driven at the expense of the other two,âÄù committee member and restorative sciences professor Paul Olin said. Paller said the merger would create a âÄúnew formatâÄù for the hospital system. The integrated process would be âÄúgee, what could we do to take care of this patient, and research and education would be an afterthought … youâÄôd think of them more at the same time,âÄù he said. Paller said the merger could result in sharing resources, which would save money. There is not an exact cost outline of the merger, but Finance and Planning Committee members said the cost of the transition may be very large, according to minutes from the Oct. 20 meeting. How University professors and doctors balance the three priorities of education, medical care and research will not change, said Dr. Bobbi Daniels, chief medical officer of University of Minnesota Physicians. She said an academic health system would give the physicians support from Fairview. Due in part to shortfalls in state funding there have been gaps in paying for graduate medical education and fellowships that have been covered by doctorsâÄô clinical income, Daniels said. She said the reorganization would have the hospital âÄúpay for things that in many other medical schools are paid for by the health system or hospital.âÄù The integration process has been ongoing since 1997, when University Hospital was sold to Fairview, Daniels said. The University already works closely with Fairview, and it pays the salaries of about 300 medical residents from the University, Paller said. University members conduct research there and students often rotate through the hospital, he said. Paller said the University had hoped the proposal would have been ready around now, but it needed to be refined. Jennifer Amundson, spokesperson for Fairview Health Services said discussions of a merger and ways to improve collaboration are ongoing. But a timeline of the merger and what would change at Fairview is not exact. âÄúThese are big ideas, itâÄôs complicated,âÄù she said.