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Sanford's Jackson purchase unopposed

JACKSON -- The Jackson City Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance Tuesday selling the city's hospital to Sanford Health for $1.25 million.

No one commented on the sale, which has been relatively uncontroversial compared to the sale of Worthington's city-owned hospital to Sanford in the summer of 2008.

"We've heard, over the last couple of weeks, nothing but positive comments," said Mary Ruyter, chief executive officer of Sanford Jackson Medical Center.

Brad Schipper, vice president of Sanford Health Network, Bruce Viessman, vice president of finance with Sanford Health Network, and Jim Striepe, executive vice president of Sanford Health Network, also attended the meeting, representing Sanford.

Sanford has leased the Jackson hospital on a yearly basis since 1997. Last year Sanford's rent was approximately $62,000, plus 10 percent of its profits for the year.

Should the council approve the second reading of the ordinance at its next meeting in two weeks, the sale will be approved 14 days later, with the official ownership change occurring in 2011.

As part of the sale, the City of Jackson will pay for several additions and renovations to the existing hospital facilities.

Starting in March 2010, the first phase will include renovation of the surgical area, upgrades to the radiology and imaging department and the creation of a single admissions area for the clinic and hospital. The second phase of construction will include the building of a new laboratory, the renovation of the emergency room and the remodeling of patient rooms.

Construction is projected to be complete in December 2011, after which Sanford Health will officially take over the facility.

Sanford has no plans to change hospital staffing.

"It ensures the longevity of healthcare in Jackson," said Mitch Jasper, mayor of Jackson. "Sanford has been working with the City of Jackson for over 12 years. They've done an excellent job of helping us with our hospital, and this is the next stage."

Jasper said the sale would be good for the city of Jackson and good for Sanford, praising the organization for its healthcare.

"I give a lot of credit to the Sanford group because they came in here when this hospital was a mess, and they took a hit for a lot of years on this hospital before they started turning a profit," Jasper said. "What the city council has seen is that it's very important for Jackson to have a hospital, and they've done a very good job in Jackson. I see no downside to this whatsoever."