Letter: Sanford-Fairview merger will make health care more sustainable for rural Minnesotans
A combined system with Sanford Health and Fairview Health Services will allow us to do even more to strengthen our health care workforce and make care more accessible, equitable and sustainable.
As a nurse and leader who has had the privilege of serving the Worthington area for more than 15 years, I’ve seen our community’s health care needs evolve and expand. I’m proud of how Sanford Health has invested in our community to provide high-quality care close to home since merging with Worthington’s community hospital in 2008.
A combined system with Sanford Health and Fairview Health Services will allow us to do even more to strengthen our health care workforce and make care more accessible, equitable and sustainable for the Minnesotans living, working, farming and raising families across our region.
Since 2008, Sanford has provided financial stability to what is now the largest medical center in southwestern Minnesota, invested $21 million in capital improvement projects, recruited more physicians, provided more specialty outreach and expanded access to advanced cancer care treatments and clinical trials. In 2022, Sanford Worthington Medical Center was named one of the top 100 rural and community hospitals in the U.S. by the Chartis Center for Rural Health.
Nearly half of all Minnesotans will be diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening cancer during their lifetimes. Today, the Sanford Worthington Cancer Center is a designated research site for the Minnesota Cancer Clinical Trials Network through the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center.
The collaboration provides Worthington’s rural population with greater access to cutting-edge clinical trials and innovative treatments. Our Cancer Center has opened 27 clinical trials and enrolled hundreds of cancer patients — advancing medicine and ensuring our patients benefit from new discoveries as quickly as possible. Sanford and Fairview’s shared commitment to excellence in health care means rural Minnesotans will benefit from even more innovative care options in the future.
Sanford’s landmark $350 virtual care initiative aims to transform health care for underserved communities by improving access to convenient, high-quality health care. By combining Sanford’s virtual care infrastructure with Fairview’s nationally recognized expertise in subspecialties, patients in rural areas like Worthington will have seamless access to highly specialized medical care.
Physician recruitment continues to be more challenging in rural areas. Since the 2008 merger in Worthington, Sanford has invested in our clinical workforce to expand services, including creating a new hospitalist program that allows patients to receive care close to home. The combined system will offer more opportunities to bring top clinical talent to Worthington.
Sanford is also committed to extending care beyond our bricks and mortar and meeting the health care needs of our broader community — just like Fairview. Social and economic factors including income, education, employment and social connections can significantly impact how well and how long we live. These factors affect our ability to make healthy choices, afford medical care and housing, manage stress and more.
Rural and urban areas face many of the same challenges. Together, we can learn from each other and build on our efforts to reduce disparities and improve health equity.
Sanford Worthington has a long-standing history of providing culturally competent care for our diverse community. We’ve hired Hispanic community health workers to connect patients with community resources including health insurance, food, housing, transportation, language translation and social services. These trusted caregivers have made a meaningful impact in helping patients improve their health.
Through our partnership with Our Lady of Guadalupe Free Clinic, we provide health care to uninsured patients. Nurses, therapists and community health workers provide weekly follow-up care to those with chronic conditions and help address other social determinants of health.
Making our communities stronger and healthier is at the core of everything we do at Sanford Health — but we can’t do this work alone. In Worthington, we are grateful for our close collaboration with city and county officials, schools, law enforcement and business leaders.
We’re proud of the progress we’ve made in improving quality of life in our community over the last 15 years, but we still have more to do — including expanding access to the right care, in the right place at the right time and building a stronger health care workforce in southwestern Minnesota.
Combining the resources and expertise of Sanford and Fairview will allow us to carry this work forward to meet the health care needs of rural Minnesotans now and into the future.
Jennifer Weg, BSN, MSN
Executive Director, Sanford Worthington Medical Center