One of the many ‘Sanford’ signs that can be seen displayed throughout the city of Sioux Falls. (Wikimedia Commons)
One of the many ‘Sanford’ signs that can be seen displayed throughout the city of Sioux Falls.

Wikimedia Commons

When one door closes, another opens; a look into Sanford CEO’s resignation

December 7, 2020

As the the world is thrust into a new age in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine, one Sioux Falls health company has faced its own set of challenges.

Sanford CEO resigns under scrutiny

COVID-19 has created a turbulent workplace for many Sanford employees, including the CEO. In charge of overseeing much of the company itself, while in turn, being a key face for Sanford, it is a challenging workload. 

Although Kelby Krabbenhoft, Sanford’s former CEO, was more than qualified for the position, COVID-19 has thrown the entire company for a loop. This virus is nowhere in the job description and has more than likely, created a conflict for all Sanford departments. 

The chaos and conflict was only intensified by the turmoil between the Sanford employees, the company itself and their previous CEO, Kelby Krabbenhoft. 

On Nov. 18, Krabbenhoft issued an email to the Sanford employees with the intent to explain his opinion on masks. After recovering from COVID-19, Krabbenhoft believed he was safe from both spreading the virus, and contracting it, which led to the subject of his email: mask-wearing, or more specifically, not wearing a mask. 

Many have questioned if this email is truly the subject of his removal, after Sanford issued a news release on Nov. 24, stating that the healthcare institution and Krabbenhoft have “mutually agreed to part ways.” 

The separation itself seems rather peaceful. Both the company and Krabbenhoft issued relatively supportive statements. 

“Sanford is in a good place, strongest ever,” said Krabbenhoft. “Now was a good time to retire… It’s Thanksgiving week and almost exactly 25 years since my family came here.” 

In response, Sanford issued their own statement, in regards to the years of hard work Krabbenhoft has provided to the company. 

“Kelby’s impact on the organization and the communities it serves will be felt for generations to come,” said Brent Teiken, Board of Trustees Chair.

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Sanford appoints new CEO following Krabbenhoft’s resignation

Despite their praises of Krabbenhoft, the separation between Sanford and Krabbenhoft was inevitable. After searching for a new CEO, Sanford landed upon Bill Gassen, who will be taking over Krabbenhoft’s responsibilities, beginning this week. 

“Gassen is getting settled into his new leadership position after Sanford and Kelby Krabbenhoft parted ways on Tuesday,” said Perry Groten, writer for the Keloland News. “The new CEO says everyone needs to follow CDC guidelines, and that includes wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” 

As stated, Gassen’s take on mask-wearing is quite different than Krabbenhoft’s. In fact, Sanford may be experiencing a lot of changes in the coming weeks, including a mandatory mask mandate throughout their HR building. 

“Bill Gassen says his top priority as the new president and CEO of Sanford Health is listening to the physicians and nurses on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Groten. 

“I need to hear from them, I need to understand what’s important to them to make sure they’re getting the resources and understand that we’re responsive to those needs,” said Gassen.

The reliance on medical experts and those who contribute to Sanford’s top-notch healthcare is appreciated.

“I haven’t seen the things that more senior health care executives have, so what I’m going to have to do is, I’m going to have to lean into and rely upon experts around me,” said Gassen. 

Overall, this transitional phase is going to bring a lot of change to Sanford, the city of Sioux Falls and the healthcare workers involved. But the optimism and support displayed to Gassen is inspiring during these confusing times.

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