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Good Sam, Sanford Health clear milestone to combine

The Good Samaritan Society voted to combine with Sanford Health. Bethany Good Samaritan Society in south Brainerd is one of several Good Samaritan communities in the lakes area, which include facilities in Pine River and a Home Care and Hospice in Nisswa. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

A late June vote opened the gate for Good Samaritan Society and Sanford Health to combine into one entity.

Regulatory review is next. The goal is to bring the organizations together by Jan. 1, 2019, Good Samaritan and Sanford reported in a joint news release Thursday, July 5. Good Samaritan Society has facilities in south Brainerd and Pine River, along with a Home Care and Hospice in Nisswa.

"The two not-for-profit organizations have spent considerable time seeking to discover ways to better serve communities," they reported. "Sanford and Society leaders found each organization wants a more integrated, community-based health system with the opportunity to serve and care for individuals through the entire span of life."

How that will play out locally is too early to get into in detail, said Aaron Woods, director of corporate communications with the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society. Woods spoke during a phone interview Thursday. Other officials were unavailable for comment but they did record and post a joint session on social media last week. In November, the organizations noted they announced the potential of the two coming together and since then worked on identifying what a combined organization would look like.

The Good Samaritan Society membership, made up of mostly current executives, administrators and executive directors/managers along with former employees, voted in favor of the combining with Sanford Health. With the combination, the new name would be Good Samaritan Society of Sanford Health.

"Our membership affirms what we believed at the onset of our discussions with Sanford," said David J. Horazdovsky, president and CEO of the Good Samaritan Society in a news release. "By bringing the expertise of the professionals at the Society together with the health care experts at Sanford, not only will there be benefits for those we serve but also the organizations are stronger together."

"This forward-thinking plan will become a national model to serve communities with exceptional care and value through the full spectrum of one's life," said Kelby Krabbenhoft, president and CEO of Sanford.

Woods said they anticipate being able to make the next step forward once the regulatory review is complete at the start of the new year. So far, he said, there have been high-level discussions but they will be allowed to plan within the guidelines of the review on how the organizations can come together. After they combine, Woods said they will look for opportunities to grow as a combined organization, which will be in the planning process now through the rest of 2018. The Good Samaritan Society name will continue.

In addition to its facilities in south Brainerd, Good Samaritan purchased the former Pine Meadows Golf Course in Baxter in 2013. At the time, the organization announced development plans were undetermined for the 80-acre site off Golf Course Drive and Excelsior Road, but the society was looking for growth opportunities in support of an expansion. The property has remained undeveloped. Woods said he didn't have information specifically on that project or operations here.

He did say overall the combination of Good Samaritan Society and Sanford Health is an opportunity to seek growth for both organizations and once they combine as a single enterprise there will be significant exploration into growth possibilities.

Woods said he couldn't speak specifically about the facilities in the Brainerd lakes area but said in the short term not much will change. So far the boards of both organizations reviewed a possible combination and approved it, as did the Good Samaritan Society's governance body in a June 26 vote.

Both organizations complement each other, Woods said, adding Good Samaritan will continue to focus on long-term care for its residents, whether they're in rehabilitation or long-term care. And he said they'll continue that expertise when they combine with Sanford. He said they will also look at all regions of the country for growth potential.

Woods said the shift the industry is experiencing right now is along the lines of continuing care and a community-based care model looking at the entire life of an individual. That care, Woods said, is highly valued in communities Good Samaritan is in and that's the type of care they want to deliver.

In the social media post, Krabbenhoft said they are on the cusp and are stepping forward into an exciting new future as they prepare to serve more people in more ways. Good Samaritan has about 30,000 people in its care and employs 19,000 across 24 states.

Horazdovsky and Krabbenhoft also spoke of their own personal kinship going back to a common education experience at Concordia College as well as a legacy and Lutheran tradition. Krabbenhoft said they were coming together from a common view of long term versus acute care and an expectation nationally at how this can work and make the lifespan of a human being fit the health care world.

"We're going to do a great deal of integration," Krabbenhoft said. " ... We're part of a growing movement, an intellectual expectation that long-term care and acute care will come together. Now we are going to be part of an emotional reality. ... Now we are going to be judged at how successful we can do it."

Krabbenhoft said the two organizations will be stronger together for practical, economic and financial reasons, as well as what they believe in and their shared Lutheran heritage. Both are headquartered in Sioux Falls, S.D. Sanford has 44 hospitals and nearly 300 clinics in nine states and four countries, and nearly 1,400 physicians with 28,000 employees.

"We cannot sit still," Krabbenhoft said, adding coming together will make both organizations more sustainable and offer better solutions.

In a joint news conference in Sioux Falls, Krabbenhoft and Horazdovsky were asked if this move meant a loss of jobs to consolidation. Horazdovsky said each of their employees will be needed and moreso as they look at the growth opportunities. Krabbenhoft said on a practical side they will look at benefit packages, retirement plans and best practices now with 50,000 combined families receiving paychecks from the combined organizations.

Krabbenhoft said Sanford Health has been kind of high profile the last decade but it's still really young as an organization. He noted the Good Samaritan Society's quiet nature across many states.

"Job security is as important to us as it is to them," Krabbenhoft said of employees. "... Will there be a period of adjustment? Of course."

But with both organizations, there is a track record of increased employment, Krabbenhoft said. He also noted employees want options, which come from opportunities in the organization in a variety of departments from long-term care to insurance to marketing.

Horazdovsky said they'll look at all the opportunities they can to work together.

Krabbenhoft said his parents spent the last years of their lives in a Good Samaritan facility. He said he thought it would have been nice if all their care was part of the same information resource—from administration to insurance to care provider. Now is the time to come forward with those solutions, Krabbenhoft said. The combination will create a $6 billion company. The Federal Trade Commission will do the review.