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Published June 21 2012

Forum editorial: It’s a new health care era in ND

Sanford Health’s multimillion-dollar investment in Sanford Medical Center in Fargo is a sign of two positive developments.

First, Sanford is serious about creating a regional health care system that is second to none in the nation.

Second, Sanford’s commitment to the Fargo-Moorhead area speaks of the company’s belief that the growth and economic strength of North Dakota and nearby states will continue.

Sanford executives told The Forum Editorial Board this week that their initial vision for its new medical center on the southwest side of Fargo has been expanded. A first version of a 704,000-square-foot, 371-bed center had a price tag of $360 million. The new building will be 1.2 million square feet, house 460 beds and cost approximately $541 million.

Sanford’s people said the change reflects further analysis of the health care market, a continuing emphasis on bringing more specialized services to Fargo, and an expected escalating demand for health care as the population not only ages but grows. The project could change again as Sanford continues to assess the future of health care.

But the primary emphasis, Sanford said, is to build and staff a medical center that is patient-centered and provides state-of-the-art care in everything from family medicine to trauma services to the most complex surgeries and specialties. In order to achieve that goal, Sanford already is recruiting physicians and other staff.

This is no small deal. It represents what is believed to be the largest single nonindustrial private construction project in the Dakotas. (Sanford’s roots are in Sioux Falls, S.D.) It comes as Sanford is expanding the downtown Fargo Roger Maris Cancer Center and is developing a comprehensive plan to modernize and repurpose much of the downtown campus – another multimillion-dollar commitment. And while a lot is happening in Fargo, Sanford and Medcenter One of Bismarck are well along on the road to a merger, which will expand Sanford’s service area into central and western North Dakota.

Fargo-Moorhead and the surrounding region have always had excellent doctors and medical facilities. Sanford’s commitment, however, is raising the bar to a level that, in time, will distinguish health care in the region as among the nation’s best.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.