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New Sanford clinic ups ante on rivalry with Avera

The new Sanford Clinic in the Highland Mall is providing obstetrics and gynecology services. (Chris Huber/Republic Photo)

A new Sanford clinic has opened in the Highland Mall in Mitchell, creating the health system's third facility in the city.

Sanford Clinic Mitchell will provide obstetrics and gynecology services, including annual exams, pregnancy and high-risk pregnancy care, infertility, menopausal management and birth-control options. The clinic opened last Friday.

Dr. Ronald Anderson will lead the clinic after previously working at Dakota Women's Clinic on Avera Queen of Peace's Mitchell campus. Anderson leased space for the clinic from the hospital. He will have four staff members at the Sanford clinic.

Dan Blue, president of Sanford Clinic Sioux Falls, said in a press release that combining Anderson's expertise with the backing of the health system's support made perfect sense.

"It will further advance care for the people in the Mitchell community," he said.

Anderson is at least the second independent, local physician to join Sanford for a new venture in the past few years.

Dr. Christine Arnold, who was formerly with Pediatrics Plus on the Avera campus, works at Sanford Children's Clinic at 1200 S. Burr St. It opened in May 2007.

Four Sanford specialists also work at an outreach neurosciences clinic at 708 E. Kay Ave.

The opening of another Sanford health-care site intensifies the competition between Sanford and Avera in providing health care in the Mitchell area. It also provides proof of Sanford President and CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft's statement in 2007 that the health system had plans for further expansion in Mitchell.

The rivalry was particularly felt three years ago when Mitchell native and NBA star Mike Miller donated $1 million to the Sanford Children's Hospital in Sioux Falls.

Tom Rasmusson, Avera Queen of Peace Hospital CEO, disputed the notion that an additional Sanford clinic in Mitchell fuels the rivalry between the two health systems and said it does not mean that Sanford will be more competitive in the Mitchell market.

"That can be fought out in Sioux Falls, not in Mitchell," he said.

The addition of another clinic brings choice closer to home for patients in the Mitchell area, according to Blue.

"I don't think it fuels anything in a negative way," he said. "I think that competition in general is a good thing and keeps us all at our highestperforming level."

Rasmusson said Avera had tried to enter into an agreement with Anderson, with negotiations starting in July 2007.

"We tried to work out a contract and just were not able to," he said, declining to elaborate on the details. "We were disappointed ... because we thought we had a marketcompetitive offer. Apparently they got a better offer."

Anderson contacted Sanford a couple years ago about forming a clinic in Mitchell, Blue said, adding that Sanford officials picked up on that after noticing the quality of Anderson's work and practice.

"It went from the introduction to recruiting process," Blue said.

He noted there's a trend of independent physicians signing on with health systems.

"Lots of physicians in private, independent practice see the need for them to affiliate with a larger system," Blue said. "In doing so, it's not uncommon that they contact both systems."

When Blue worked as a family practice physician, he said patients from Mitchell asked him when Sanford would expand to the city.

"In the case of Dr. Arnold and Dr. Anderson, they see great value in what Sanford is about and our organization," he said.

Rasmusson said Anderson will maintain his privileges at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital.

"I'm sure he will still admit his patients there, deliver babies there and do surgeries there," he said of Anderson.

Drs. Michael Krause and Liz Campbell will maintain their OB/GYN practices on the Avera campus, Rasmusson said.

Sanford's partnership with Anderson, who has been serving Mitchell for more than 20 years, will result in several improvements for patients, such as further stability and the resources needed to continue high-quality medical care, according to Sanford.

The market will dictate how much further Sanford will expand its reach in Mitchell, Blue said. For now, the health system will continue to expand its outreach of specialists to the area, he said.