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Published November 29, 2011, 08:10 AM

Sanford Health launches clinics effort in Ghana

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Sanford Health has opened for business in Africa in a move that will help the Dakotas-based medical giant establish a presence on four continents in the next three years.

By: Associated Press, INFORUM

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Sanford Health has opened for business in Africa in a move that will help the Dakotas-based medical giant establish a presence on four continents in the next three years.

The health network with headquarters in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Fargo, has taken over one clinic in Ghana, is building two more and is on track to have 10 clinics in the country.

The system that bills itself as the nation's largest not-for-profit rural health care provider also plans to set up clinics in Ireland next year, in Mexico in 2013 and in Israel in 2014. Sanford anticipates eventually having more than 100 clinics around the globe, Ruth Krystopolski, executive vice president of development and research, told the Argus Leader newspaper.

The long-distance effort is one of several by U.S. health systems to reach people in need and let workers broaden their skills in other settings.

"Global health care is just a hot topic. Before we were more isolated, but everything is a little more accessible. The world is a little smaller," said Meredith Mick, CEO of the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children, a Philadelphia nonprofit that has opened projects since 2002 in El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru, India and Uganda.

Sanford's world focus is helping children in areas that lack pediatricians, but in several cases, such as Ghana, that means treating people of all ages. The country has 24 million people in an area the size of Minnesota. It is a developing nation where immunizations are new to the culture.

"In many developing countries, we will need to offer care to the whole family in order to meet the health care needs of children," Krystopolski said.

Sanford Health was formed by the merger of two health systems in the Dakotas in 2009. It has a presence in more than 100 communities in eight states, as far as the West Coast. Sanford officials initially had been in talks with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation about a joint venture in Ghana — even traveling to Seattle earlier this year to meet with the Microsoft founder — but eventually decided to proceed without the billionaire's help because of differing goals.

Sanford is spending less than $1 million in construction to open the first three African clinics, with building costs less than one-tenth of U.S. rates, Krystopolski said. The clinic already open was an existing facility in Cape Coast serving about 800 patients a week. The next two are new buildings Sanford will open in 2012 in the cities of Mankessim and Kojokrom. All three will use the name Sanford and their 100 workers will be Sanford employees. Most of the workers so far are citizens of Ghana or U.S. immigrants wishing to return to Africa.

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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