See more of the story

The second of four public meetings on the proposed Sanford-Fairview mega-merger is scheduled for Tuesday evening in Bemidji, one of several towns in greater Minnesota where South Dakota-based Sanford Health already operates hospitals and clinics.

Attorney General Keith Ellison is hosting the meetings to supplement his investigation into how the proposed combination would impact health care competition as well as the deal's compliance with Minnesota law on charitable assets.

The question of charitable assets came to the fore last week.

Fairview has owned the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis since 1997 and U officials have not been supportive of the merger. During Ellison's meeting last week in St. Paul, Sanford CEO Bill Gassen said that if the U remains concerned, it might want to extricate itself from the health system buy re-purchasing the teaching hospital.

Less than two days later, the U unveiled a proposal to take back the medical center as a first step toward a new $1 billion-plus hospital on its East Bank campus.

Tuesday's meeting is expected to address questions about the merger's impact on health care in rural communities. At last week's event, Gassen said that Sanford has invested more than $100 million to increase access to specialty care in Bemidji since it merged in 2011 with North Country Health Services.

"When we say that patients will have access to better care, we mean it," he said.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Bemidji State University, Hobson Memorial Union Ballroom, 1500 Birchmont Dr. NE, in Bemidji. The event will be live-streamed on the attorney general's Facebook page.