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Local doc supports Sanford-Fairview plan

A local doctor puts his name on a Strib commentary arguing that the Sanford takeover of Fairview is a good deal. Dr. Robert Gauthier writes: “Speaking as a physician who was part of the merger of Fairview and the University of Minnesota, who ran a department at Regions postmerger, who worked in rural Allina facilities and who has just concluded a stint at a Sanford facility in northern Minnesota, my personal feeling is the merger should occur. Fairview management is feckless, completely consumed with internal issues and relying on consultants to do what management should be doing — ideas and leadership. Sanford is growing rapidly due to a good business model and quality leadership. It is a finance-driven organization that fixes finances and brings in new leadership. Sanford has improved care where it has gone.”

That April 1 time-stamp had me wondering … But the Strib’s Kevin Diaz files a piece on one of Our Favorite Congresswoman’s most reliable campaign advisers …until he wasn’t: “Peter Waldron’s journey from a jail cell in Uganda to the inner circle of Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign in Iowa did not follow a straight line. … Waldron, 65, is now the man behind a pair of inquiries … raising allegations of campaign finance violations that have given the four-term congresswoman more bad publicity than anything lobbed her way by the political left. Close Bachmann associates write Waldron off as a loose cannon and disgruntled employee. But for Waldron, a former radio evangelist, his actions are consistent with his decades-long mission to spread the word of God and follow his Christian precepts.” Well, right there are your red flags.

Christopher Snowbeck of the PiPress looks at the latest spike in health care costs: “Per-person spending by the state’s nonprofit health insurance companies on medical care during 2012 rose 5.1 percent compared with the previous year, according [to] data released Monday, April 1, by the Minnesota Council of Health Plans. That was a significant jump compared with the rate of medical cost inflation during 2010 and 2011, according to the St. Paul-based trade group. In 2011, for example, the annual increase in per-person spending was just 0.4 percent — essentially flat — likely because some patients delayed elective procedures during the slow economic recovery. While these growing medical costs likely did not bite into the wallets of insured patients, they did hit the operating profit margins last year for health insurers including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, the state’s largest carrier. And they are part of a trend noticed nationwide, and possibly a sign of a strengthening economy.” So what are hospitals charging now for an aspirin? $45?

As goes Chicago, so go the Twin Cities … The AP reports: “Mexican drug cartels that have been expanding their reach in the U.S. in recent years have set up shop in the Upper Midwest, among other regions, law enforcement officials say. Cases involving drug cartel members have been seen in Minnesota, and there has been activity in neighboring Wisconsin. The head of the Sinaloa cartel was recently named Chicago’s Public Enemy No. 1, the same label once given to gangster Al Capone. The Drug Enforcement Administration says about 230 American communities reported some level of cartel presence in 2008, but that number had climbed to more than 1,200 by 2011, the latest year for which statistics are available.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Congressman Tim Walz are pushing new legislation to fix a glaring problem within the VA. Jessica Mador of MPR reports: “Two Minnesota lawmakers are pushing legislation they say will help thousands of military veterans who were wrongly denied VA benefits. They say thousands of veterans who may have had post-traumatic stress disorder were wrongly diagnosed. A national study by Yale University found that more than 31,000 veterans were wrongly discharged from the military after being inaccurately diagnosed with either personality or adjustment disorder. The military doesn’t consider those disorders connected to their military service, so these veterans typically are not eligible for all of the benefits that veterans with honorable discharge receive.”

Feeling flush?  Bill Catlin of MPR looks at the latest income stats and writes: “Minnesota’s per capita personal income, a broad measure of prosperity, rose 3.7 percent (not adjusted for inflation) from 2011 to 2012, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s a faster pace than the U.S. total, which rose 2.7 percent. Minnesota’s income per person of $46,227 is $3,534 more than the national tally of $42,693. Minnesota retained its ranking of eleventh among the 50 states in 2012.”  That’s odd … while we’re in the top quintile, South Dakota, irresistible lure to our millionaires, is in … the last.

The GleanSpeaking of windfalls … Jenna Ross of the Strib says: “An anonymous alumnus has given $10 million to Augsburg College, the largest gift in the small Minneapolis school’s history. The college announced Monday that the gift would bolster its plans to build a new academic building that has long topped its wish list. ‘For a place of this size, and for what we need to do, this is a transformative gift,, said President Paul Pribbenow. The gift brings the total raised and pledged for the proposed Center for Science, Business and Religion to more than $23 million.”

Stephen Colbert’s stamp is on the new show at the Institute of Arts. Marianne Combs of MPR writes: “ ‘More Real? Art in the Age of Truthiness,’ a new exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, suggests that in today’s media-saturated world, perhaps every day is April Fools’ — and people should always question the validity of what they see and hear. … The exhibit is inspired by the times, said curator Liz Armstrong. When people get their news from comedy shows and CNN reporters are hired to write fiction, who knows what is real anymore? ‘Anybody can fake photographs, news, information,’ Armstrong said. ‘Wiki-reality is a tricky thing, and we live in it now.’ “

And in new stadium news … Ray Richardson of the PiPress writes: “[T]hanks to generous and concerned donors outside the university, [U of M baseball coach John] Anderson’s tireless efforts will become a reality Tuesday afternoon, April 2, when a grand opening officially unveils the Gophers’ 1,800-seat Siebert Field. ‘It’s been a long time coming,’ said Anderson, who took over the Gophers’ program from longtime coach Dick Siebert, the stadium’s namesake. ‘We’re very happy to get to this point. We have a 21st-century ballpark. When you don’t have a facility, you’re vulnerable.’ Anderson and a dedicated committee of supporters, including baseball hall of famer and former Gophers star Paul Molitor, raised $7.5 million to build the new Siebert Field. PCL Construction, of Burnsville, broke ground at the site in June 2012 and completed the work in late December.”

Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/02/2013 - 08:22 am.

    Sanford takover

    I worked at Farview before and after the merger as well, and I agree, management was awful, and it appears to gotten even worse since I left (which is hard to imagine but true). However, “finance driven” medicine isn’t the answer. The question isn’t whether or not Sanford has a good business model, it’s whether or not it delivers good health care. Typically, the most profitable hospitals in the US are not the best caregivers. Mayo for instance is a not for profit. We want hospitals that deliver good health care but aren’t financial disasters, we don’t want hospitals that make money for investors but deliver poor health care.

    The whole reason our health care system is such a disaster is that we built a health care market while everyone else built health cares systems. As a general rule our for profit hospitals and health care insurance systems in the US are under-performing health care. Our most efficient systems are actually Medicare and the VA for instance. One thing we’ve learned over the last ten years is that private sector efficiency is a myth, let’s not try to solve Farview’s problems with magic.

    I’m sure Dr. Gauthier is sincere and intelligent but Dr.’s I don’t trust his proscription in this case, the patient is a hospital. I’m not sure what the solution is, it seems to me the State has some influence here since the University is involved so maybe some solutions can be imposed on Fairview? We have a lot of in-state healthcare management talent, why not tap into that?

  2. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 04/02/2013 - 08:26 am.

    Right or Wrong? Who Knows?

    I don’t care if Peter Waldron is right or wrong as long as he keeps Bachmann occupied defending herself so long that she won’t have anytime to be out spreading her fiction. Look who is calling who a loose cannon. Some how this will end up being a left wing conspiracy.

    • Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 04/02/2013 - 09:50 am.

      Easter Just Being Past

      I can promise you that the chief priests, scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees saw Jesus and his disciples as a “left wing conspiracy,” too,…

      as the leaders of most “conservative” branches of Christianity still do today,…

      and as Ms. Bachmann and her husband would surely do if Jesus were to return and repeat his life, ministry, teaching, and living among us humans again.

  3. Submitted by Joe Musich on 04/02/2013 - 01:40 pm.

    The Doctor opinion ?

    As with any opinion where are the supporting facts ? There are plenty of facts that strongly suggest that some sort of single payer healthcare program either tied to Medicare or in the case of e
    Veterans the VA are the most effective for patient care. But then again the strib also gives is Kerstan and Lewis as experts.

  4. Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 04/02/2013 - 03:19 pm.

    Speaking as said oracle

    Unfortunately editing at the strib took out a few comments.

    First, the reality is Fairview is losing money and only the U hospital is doing well, which is ironic. That was the case for a merger in the first place! In the other direction!! Sanford is the party with the money this time.

    The real issue is the Medical School, which was a big idea generator years ago. It still has that in its DNA, but it cannot generate now due to no financing. The U was always largely internally financed and had little state financial support. When Fairview bought the U, it took away the 20M a year that was transferred from the hospital to the Medical School via departmental support. With loss of the hospital funding, there is no way to generate facility based money, which is where the money is.

    We are looking at a deal to give 500 M to Rochester to increase their facilities. This may or may not create companies, but it will provide a lot of sustainable jobs. The U helped create St. Jude, Medtronic, the heart Catheter (Amplatz), the pacemaker, advances in cardiopulmonary bypass, as well as a number of other mid sized businesses. I am not smart enough to know which is a better deal, but I am guessing more net wealth is generated by new businesses. Good jobs come from patient care and research, but private enterprise is where we all say we want to build the economy.

    If a deal is to be done, we should not give the farm away. Demand that the U act like its own profit center and some of those profits stay at home. Not to prop up other losing hospitals. Sanford and the U could combine educational resources for primary care education and training, they could regionalize services to save money. We need to be sure that is part of he deal for the future of the largest medical school in the state, the Minneapolis campus. We deserve that as taxpayers.

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