SALT LAKE CITY — A merger previously hailed as a "match made in heaven" has fallen from grace as Sanford Health indefinitely suspended conversations with Intermountain Healthcare on Friday.
According to a press release from Intermountain Healthcare, the decision comes following the departure of Kelby Krabbenhoft, president and CEO of Sanford Health. Due to the leadership change, Sanford has decided to pause the current merger and acquisition activity while it addresses the changes within the company.
Krabbenhoft stepped down in November after sending a controversial email to employees saying that he wouldn't wear a mask after recovering from the coronavirus.
Krabbenhoft told employees that he believes he's immune to COVID-19 "for at least seven months and perhaps years to come." The former CEO added that he wasn't a threat to transmit COVID-19 and that wearing a mask was for appearances, according to the Associated Press.
"For me to wear a mask defies the efficacy and purpose of a mask and sends an untruthful message that I am susceptible to infection or could transmit it," according to the email obtained by the AP in November. "I have no interest in using masks as a symbolic gesture. ... My team and I have a duty to express the truth and facts and reality and not feed the opposite."
Intermountain Healthcare's plans to merge with Sanford Health were an effort to create a "model" in the United States and improve health outcomes throughout the West.
Intermountain Healthcare CEO Dr. Marc Harrison, said that the two systems which were both founded by religious groups — Intermountain by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Sanford by Lutherans — were "a match made in heaven."
The pandemic had brought to light the importance of collaboration between health care systems, Harrison noted, as Intermountain has worked with University of Utah Health to fight COVID-19.
"We are disappointed but understand the recent leadership change at Sanford Health has influenced their priorities," said Dr. Marc Harrison, president and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare in Friday's press release. "There's much to admire about the work that Sanford Health is doing. We continue to share a strong vision for the future of healthcare."
Contributing: Ashley Imlay