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Published November 14, 2013, 08:54 AM

Sanford looks to firm up plans for clinic in China

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Sanford Health officials hope a trip to China will help the Dakotas-based health network firm up plans for a clinic in the communist country.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Sanford Health officials hope a trip to China will help the Dakotas-based health network firm up plans for a clinic in the communist country.

Sanford is planning a children's clinic in Kunming, a southern city of 6 million people near China's border with Vietnam. The nine-member Sanford delegation leaving Thursday for China will work on final details with partners in China, Senior Executive Vice President Dave Link told the Argus Leader newspaper.

Link declined to name the prospective partner until terms are final. Officials have said previously that the Chinese government would build and own the clinic and that Sanford would deliver the services.

"That's been the model we've been discussing," Link said.

Sanford in the past four years has opened children's clinics in Oklahoma, California and Oregon, along with regular clinics in the African nation of Ghana. Officials have been working on a move into China for more than a year. The delegation traveling to the country includes CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft, of Sioux Falls, S.D., and trustee board chairman Lauris Molbert, of Fargo, N.D.

Sanford, based in Sioux Falls and Fargo, bills itself as the nation's largest not-for-profit rural health care provider, with locations in 126 communities in nine states. It has been expanding its presence around the globe, and also is pursuing clinics in Israel and Mexico.

China is the world's most populous nation, with 1.3 billion people. A Sanford clinic there would expect to break even financially within a few years and then operate in the black, according to Link.

"There's an opportunity and a need. We're looking forward to being a part of that," he said.

While China's strength has been exports, leaders are turning their attention inward to improving the country's standard of living, Creighton University economics professor Ernie Goss said. Sanford could be a part of that effort while also meeting its own financial goals and exporting a form of goodwill, he said.

"You've got a communist structure, but the economy is moving toward market-based decision making," Goss said. "In the old Soviet Union, you didn't see that."

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