University of Minnesota plans to retake control of its medical facilities, build new hospital

A big proposal came from the University of Minnesota on Thursday to take back ownership of its medical facilities and build a new hospital.

It comes as Fairview Health Services tries to merge with Sanford Health out of South Dakota – and just a few days after Fairview floated the idea of the university taking over the campus.

That whole option came from Fairview this week during one of those listening sessions by Attorney General Keith Ellison on that proposed merger with Sanford Health. The university formed that business partnership with Fairview 25 years ago to run the hospitals. They were losing money at the time, and Fairview really shored them up. But Thursday, University president Joan Gabel unveiled a new strategic plan to ensure that all state residents have access to the U's academic healthcare system.

"To achieve this objective, we must own governance and control the flagship healthcare facilities on our Twin Cities campus," said Gabel. "These include the University of Minnesota Medical Center, East and West Bank facilities, the Masonic Children's Hospital, and the Clinics and Surgery Center."

Now, the strategic plan involves building a new state-of-the-art hospital there in the East Bank at the corner of Huron and Washington. The university has been building out its medical campus there in the past decade and has already acquired the land for the new hospital there.

The university's vice president of finance says it would take about five years to build this new hospital.

"We must begin the planning and process now," said Vice President Myron Franz. "We have to assess community needs. We need to plan for a really great solution and we need to secure necessary public funding."

Now, in a joint statement Thursday afternoon from both Sanford Health and Fairview Health Systems, it said, "We remain interested in a clinical partnership between the university and the combined Fairview-Sanford system. Despite repeated requests since last August, we have not had the opportunity to meet with President Gabel or Regent Powell."

If the university does retake control of its hospitals and clinics to build a new hospital, it would need money from the state legislature. Myron Franz said Thursday he doesn't have a price tag yet, but he did say no state-of-the-art hospital -- like the one they're talking about -- would cost less than $1 billion.