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Published June 28, 2011, 08:47 PM

Sanford Health might expand clinics to Ghana

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Officials with Dakotas-based Sanford Health say they are talking with billionaire Bill Gates about building clinics in the African nation of Ghana.

By: Associated Press, INFORUM

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Officials with Dakotas-based Sanford Health say they are talking with billionaire Bill Gates about building clinics in the African nation of Ghana.

Sanford CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft recently led a team of five officials to Seattle to meet with the Microsoft founder. A separate team of three officials traveled to Ghana.

“We have had discussions with their government, and they are positively agreeable,” Ruth Krystopolski, executive vice president for Sanford development and research, told the Argus Leader newspaper in a story published Tuesday. “Their needs matched very well with Sanford's capacity to deliver primary health care.”

Gates and his foundation have a plan to improve vaccination rates in Third World countries, and Sanford wants to expand to several countries.

“We just proposed the (Ghana) idea. We had to make sure we understand where (Gates’) passions and desires lay,” said Krystopolski, who was part of the delegation that went to Seattle.

An announcement could come later this year, she said.

A deputy press secretary for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said in an email to The Associated Press that the foundation does not comment on potential future plans.

Sanford Health already has children's clinics in Belize and Ireland, as well as some in states outside the Midwest. It said earlier this year it plans more than 20 additional such clinics in the U.S. and abroad over the next decade.

Sanford Health was formed by the merger of two health systems in the Dakotas in 2009. It is headquartered in Fargo, N.D., and Sioux Falls, and has a presence in more than 100 communities in eight states. Sanford says it is the nation's largest not-for-profit rural health care provider.

Brian Hensel, assistant professor of health services administration at the University of South Dakota, said expanding to Africa would fit the Sanford network's international plans.

“These developing countries are focusing on basics in health care that we take for granted,” he said. “You are literally saving lives whether it's through water sanitation or immunizations or basic public health structures.”

Ghana is about the size of Oregon. It is home to about 20 million people.

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