Gov. Walz creating task force on future of health system at University of Minnesota

Gov. Tim Walz is launching a task force on the future of health sciences programs at the University of Minnesota, a move that comes amid uncertainty about whether the U will extend its current partnership with Minneapolis-based Fairview.

Former Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, who retired in January, will lead the group, which is scheduled to provide a summary of its recommendations in January.

The timeline that extends just beyond the Dec. 31 deadline for the U and Fairview Health Services to signal if they want to continue their current affiliation beyond 2026.

Last month, South Dakota-based Sanford Health announced it was pulling out of merger talks with Fairview, which is one of the largest health systems in Minnesota. The U opposed the proposed combination because it would have shifted to Sioux Falls control of the U’s teaching hospital, which is owned by Fairview.

The Walz announcement did not mention Fairview or Sanford.

“The University of Minnesota’s health sciences programs provide critical education, training and research to support the next generation of health care professionals and provide high-quality care for Minnesotans,” Walz said in a news release. “I am calling together this group of leaders and health care experts to work to ensure that the future of Minnesota’s academic health remains strong.”

An executive order will create the Governor’s Task Force on Academic Health at the University of Minnesota. Goals including supporting education, research and care delivery at the U in order to promote equity, primary care and high-quality services that are financially sustainable.

Task force members will be appointed by the governor, the Legislature and by leaders from the Department of Health and Office of Higher Education.

“Academic medicine will play a critical role in ensuring a healthy future for our state, but achieving our shared vision for a healthy, vibrant Minnesota is only possible when we collaborate across sectors, disciplines, and industries with an unwavering focus on the wellbeing of all Minnesotans,” said Jeff Ettinger, the U’s interim president, in a statement. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to advance plans that prioritize the health of all Minnesotans, now and into the future.”

Fairview provides annual financial support to the academic medicine mission at the U through an agreement that dates back to 1997.

As part of their affiliation, the U and Fairview jointly market health services under the brand M Health Fairview.

During the merger debate, the U proposed regaining from Fairview ownership or control of University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis while unveiling plans for a massive new hospital on its East Bank campus.

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