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Sanford Health executives apologize to CEO’s email about COVID-19 and masks



“We know words mean something, and words have power, and we regret that the message left many frustrated and disappointed,” leaders with Krabbenhoft’s signature wrote noticeably absent in the email, which was received from several sources by the Forum News Service. “You are our heroes who work tirelessly to take care of our patients, and we hear you, support you, and appreciate you.”

Leaders who signed the email were COO Matt Hocks, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allison Suttle, Chief Administrative Officer Bill Gassen, Executive Vice President Micah Aberson and Chief of Staff Nathan Peterson.

Sioux Falls-based Sanford Health is one of the nation̵

7;s largest nonprofit healthcare systems with large medical facilities and hundreds of clinics in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota and has announced plans to merge with Intermountain Healthcare in Utah.

In their email, Sanford Health directors told staff that Krabbenhoft wrote his Wednesday because he had a “strong desire” to share his own COVID-19 experience and opinions, but that the health system’s masking policy remained unchanged.

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“We will continue to let science lead the work we do every day to keep our communities healthy and safe. Science is clear, masks work,” they wrote.

Krabbenhoft, who is not a doctor, had written that he considered himself immune to COVID-19 for at least seven months and maybe longer, although there is not much scientific evidence or research to support his opinion. Sanford executives’ advice to employees addressed their CEO’s demands and the evidence gathered so far by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“When it comes to immunity, science is evolving and we must continue to follow CDC guidelines,” they wrote. “Whether you have had the virus or not, it is recommended that you wear a mask when you cannot be socially distanced.”

Leaders called the COVID-19 situation in the Upper Midwest serious, especially as data projections showed the potential for 200 new admissions from the virus in the weeks after Thanksgiving, if people gathered in large groups. But they also said they were “incredibly optimistic” with new treatment therapies, “innovative ways” to deliver home care and new vaccines on the horizon.

“We are grateful to our Sanford family, who every day emerge from a deep sense of calling to take care of all patients who come in through the door,” it wrote. We know we do not live and work in normal times, so many of you take on additional responsibilities, work longer hours, and accept multiple shifts. We can hear the fatigue in your voices and we can see it on your faces. We hear you and we are behind you. “

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Full email from Sanford Health Directors below, subject line: “We are united with you,” Friday, November 20:

Dear Sanford family,

On Wednesday night, Kelby Krabbenhoft, President and CEO, sent an email to you, our 50,000 employees, because he had a strong desire to share his personal experience with COVID-19 and his opinions on this virus. We know that words mean something, and words have power, and we regret that the message left many frustrated and disappointed. You are our heroes who work tirelessly to take care of our patients and we hear you, support you and appreciate you.

We want you to know unequivocally that the position of our healthcare system has not changed. We will continue to let science lead the work we do every day to keep our communities healthy and safe. Science is clear, masks work. When it comes to immunity, science is evolving and we must continue to follow CDC guidelines. Whether you have had the virus or not, it is recommended that you wear a mask when you cannot be socially distanced. Our disguise policy for Sanford Health remains unchanged.

We stand united in this call to our society: For masks to be effective in reducing the spread of this virus, we need everyone to wear one.

The situation over the Upper Midwest is serious right now. We know that admissions lag two to three weeks after the positivity rate. Our data forecasts show that we could see more than 200 additional admissions in the weeks after Thanksgiving if people gather with friends or members of other households in large groups.

We can not say it enough: we need everyone in society to do their part so that we can take care of those who need us.

We are grateful to our Sanford family, who every day emerge from a deep sense of calling to take care of all patients who come through the door. We know that we do not live and work in normal times, that many of you take on additional responsibilities, work longer and accept more shifts. We can hear the fatigue in your voices and we can see it on your faces. We hear you and we are behind you.

Looking forward to the coming months, we are incredibly optimistic. We are in a crucial moment – from new treatment therapies to a promising new vaccine and innovative ways to provide care at home. There is reason for hope and light on the horizon. Let’s continue to take care of each other so we cross the finish line together. We are indebted to you and are so proud of your dedication to taking care of our patients and community.

With respect and gratitude,

Matt Hocks

Chief Operating Officer

Allison Suttle, MD

Chief Physician

Bill Gassen
CEO

Micah Aberson
Executive Vice President

Nathan Peterson
Personnel Manager


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