by Melanie Evans

Maroon paint covers all but a small orange rectangle with room numbers stenciled in white. In the hall opposite, the hallmark tangerine borders of the former University Hospital remain untouched.
The chameleon colors on the sixth-floor walls of Fairview-University Medical Center are one small sign of change 15 months into the merger of Fairview Health Systems and the former University Hospital.
However, on April 6 a far more visible sign of the merger’s continuing progress will occur as the medical center ushers in a new administration. Two of the hospital’s top posts will change hands one week from today, Fairview officials announced Thursday.
Gordon Alexander, Fairview senior vice president of medical affairs, and Pam Tibbetts, senior vice president of clinical integration, will succeed Fairview senior vice presidents Peter Rapp and Don Berglund as chief executive officer and chief operating officer respectively.
Alexander and Tibbetts will manage the 1,850-bed hospital with a staff of about 7,000. An estimated 450 University physicians practice and teach at the Minneapolis-based Fairview-University hospital and one-third of the University’s 900 residents get their training at the facility.
The appointment marks the conclusion of what Fairview and University administrators are calling the first planning phase of the partnership between the two organizations. Alexander and Tibbetts will head the hospital during the second implementation phase.
“It seemed like a natural time to do a rotation of responsibilities with these senior officers,” said Bill Maxwell, Fairview acting chief executive officer.
“We’re taking these four people and just moving their chairs to take advantage of their particular skills,” he added.
The first phase involved “a whole lot of setting the stage,” Maxwell said. Negotiations with unions, hammering out pension plans, combining medical staffs, a new accreditation process and planning for physician consolidation occupied the first 15 months.
The pair, appointed by Maxwell, will oversee projects like the relocation of Fairview-Riverside’s cardiovascular and spine services to the University campus. The relocation, which also includes complex medical and surgical services, is slated to begin in May.
The success of the relocation will be important to the overall success of the partnership, said Marvin Goldberg, Fairview-University Medical Center co-chief of staff and University associate professor of radiology.
Only a handful of the physical changes prompted by the merger have occurred to date. Changes at the University campus-based hospital, such as the renovation of the same-day surgical area and emergency room, have had little effect on staff members or patients, he said.
As both organizations prepare to carry out more relocation plans, Maxwell said cultural integration between staff members from both organizations is essential.
At the December Board of Regents meetings, Frank Cerra, the Academic Health Center’s senior vice president, identified cultural integration as a continuing area of concern.
The merger brought together different cultures and traditions, which Maxwell said no one expected would blend together overnight.
“Frankly, it will probably take another two to three years to really have people be thinking of Fairview-University Medical Center as a single entity, rather than they came from the University or they came from Fairview,” Maxwell said. “It’s something we need to keep focused on.”
Alexander appeared a “natural” for the CEO position because of his broad medical and administrative background, Maxwell said. Alexander will become the first physician to hold such a position within Fairview.
Tibbetts, an 18-year veteran of the health care network, participated in two previous hospital mergers. Her seniority and experience made her the ideal candidate for the new position, Maxwell said.
Both Berglund and Rapp will continue to work on the Fairview-University merger as Fairview senior vice presidents. Rapp will lead the health system’s greater Minnesota outreach programs for faculty members. Berglund will become senior vice president for clinical integration.