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CEO's exit halts planned merger between Sanford and Intermountain

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | December 08, 2020
The resignation of Sanford's CEO has stalled its planned merger with Intermountain Healthcare
Sanford Health and Intermountain Healthcare have hit the brakes on their planned merger, which is expected to be one of the largest in the U.S.

The suspension comes amidst the controversial exit of Sanford Health president and CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft, who resigned after telling staff that he did not need to wear a mask, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“We are disappointed but understand the recent leadership change at Sanford Health has influenced their priorities,” said Dr. Marc Harrison, president and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare. “There’s much to admire about the work that Sanford Health is doing. We continue to share a strong vision for the future of healthcare.”

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Krabbenhoft told staff on November 18 in an email obtained by CNN that he did not have to wear a mask because he already had recovered from COVID-19, thereby making a mask a “symbolic gesture” for him.
“For me to wear a mask defies the efficacy and purpose of a mask and sends an untruthful message that I am susceptible to infection or could transmit it,” he wrote in the email.

He resigned a week later after 25 years as president and CEO of the South Dakota healthcare system. The Sanford Health Board of Trustees voted to replace him with Bill Gassen.

“With this leadership change, it’s an important time to refocus our efforts internally as we assess the future direction of our organization. We continue to prioritize taking care of our patients, our people, and the communities we serve as we look to shape our path forward,” said Gassen, adding that Sanford has “great respect for Intermountain Healthcare, Dr. Marc Harrison and their leadership team, and looks forward to continuing to learn from each other.”

More than 41,000 individuals, 23 hospitals and one virtual hospital make up Intermountain Healthcare across Utah, Idaho and Nevada, while Sanford Has 46 hospitals across 24 states and employs 48,000 people, according to Deseret News.

The merger was expected to be completed in mid-2021.

There has been no word if the deal has been cancelled or delayed.

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