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Hospital merger to end MeritCare name

Get ready to say goodbye to the MeritCare name in health care.

The brand, which was born with the merger of St. Luke's Hospitals and Fargo Clinic in 1993, is slated to retire next month.

The reason, of course, is another corporate marriage, last year's merger between Fargo-based MeritCare and Sanford Health, based in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The combined health system, believed to be the nation's largest nonprofit rural health provider, serves six states and includes 30 hospitals with a total of 1,600 beds and 800 physicians.

But Sanford Health-MeritCare is a mouthful, and the name streamlining, pending board approval later this month, will shorten the moniker to Sanford Health.

The pending change became public when Kelby Krabbenhoft, Sanford-MeritCare's chief executive, was quoted about it Thursday in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader when he also discussed plans to open new children's clinics in Oregon and Ireland.

Krabbenhoft also said that T. Denny Sanford, the benefactor who donated $400 million to the health system, is expected to be in Fargo in July in connection with the name change.

The disappearance of MeritCare was hinted at last week when the health system acknowledged that "brand unification" would occur in July.

Bruce Furness, former Fargo mayor and an outspoken critic of the merger last year, said he is not surprised or upset by the shortened name.

"We kind of thought that would happen anyhow, and it makes sense to have a unified name," Furness said. "It's less cumbersome, and they want to have a unified system, so it makes sense to me."

Furness also said his worries had not come true, and it's clear the merged organization has big plans for Fargo, including a new fitness center and developing plans for a major medical complex.