Memorial Group, BJC HealthCare to explore strategic affiliation

From Illinois Business Journal news services

BELLEVILLE – Memorial Group and BJC HealthCare today announced plans to explore a strategic affiliation between the two health systems.

A Letter of Intent has been approved by the boards of both organizations which will launch a due-diligence effort to explore the opportunity. A final decision as to whether the two systems will move forward with an affiliation is expected later this summer. If they proceed, the combined organization “would bring the renowned expertise of BJC to the Memorial network,” a joint statement said.

Asked to clarify whether it was accurate to say that a merger was unlikely, a Memorial Hospital spokeswoman responded with an email:

“This is an exploration of a strategic affiliation, that will bring the resources and expertise of BJC to the Memorial Network while allowing Memorial to maintain its independent identity as well as leadership position and commitments in the Metro East community. For the next few months, Memorial Group and BJC HealthCare will focus on the period of due diligence in order to make the best decisions for patients, employees, physicians and the community,” the email said.

“Our commitment to Belleville and the Metro East is unwavering,” said Memorial Group Chairman Les Mehrtens in a statement. “We all know that the health-care industry is rapidly changing. By being proactive and looking for ways that we can position ourselves for the future, we can remain strong for the communities we serve.”

Under the proposed affiliation, BJC HealthCare would become a partner in Memorial Hospital Belleville and Memorial Hospital East. There would be no change in name, branding or leadership for Memorial Group.

“We recognize the great reputation of Memorial, and we believe BJC’s expertise can bring sustainable advantages to Metro East patients and physician partners,” said BJC President and CEO Steven Lipstein. “This affiliation would allow both systems to build upon their strengths, providing coordinated, quality care close to home.”

Details of the proposed affiliation will be defined in the coming months. If a deal is signed, it will be subject to federal and state regulatory approval.

“There are a lot of changing dynamics in our market and the health care industry. This affiliation is a step toward enhancing our care delivery model,” said Memorial Group CEO Mark Turner. “We take very seriously our responsibility to ensure our patients have the very best quality care and facilities now and for generations to come.”

The announcement comes just days after the state gave the green light to plans by St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville to relocate to new, state-of-the-art facilities it plans to build in O’Fallon. Memorial Hospital had pubicly criticized that move, arguing that a new hospital in O’Fallon would constitute an unnecessary duplication of services and leave a void of services for the vulnerable needs population that St. Elizabeth serves. Memorial is now completing Memorial East Hospital in nearby Shiloh.

Memorial Group is the parent organization of Memorial Hospital, Memorial Hospital East, the Memorial Foundation and Southwest Illinois Health Ventures. Serving Belleville and the Metro East since 1958, Memorial is the area’s leading community health care provider. Memorial is a designated MAGNET facility and an accredited chest pain center. Its medical staff includes more than 350 members representing 42 specialties. The organization’s 2,300 employees have been honored with numerous quality care recognitions.

BJC HealthCare is one of the largest nonprofit health care organizations in the United States and is focused on delivering services to residents primarily in the greater St. Louis, southern Illinois and mid-Missouri regions. With 2014 net revenues of $4.1 billion, BJC serves the health care needs of urban, suburban and rural communities and includes 12 hospitals and multiple community health locations. Services include inpatient and outpatient care, primary care, community health and wellness, workplace health, home health, community mental health, rehabilitation, long-term care and hospice.

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