Union Hospital of Cecil County is planning to join the LifeBridge Health system.
The boards of both healthcare systems announced the merger this week. A letter of intent has been signed and both institutions are now in a period of exclusive negotiation and due diligence. The process is expected to be completed sometime between April and July. Both boards of directors will have to approve the final merger plan and it also has to be okayed by federal regulators.
Hospital officials began informing stakeholders on Wednesday. Staff meetings to announce the planned merger occurred Thursday morning.
Hospital President and CEO Dr. Rich Szumel and Hospital Board Chairman Raymond “Chick” Hamm wanted to assure the community that Union Hospital is in great shape – both from fiscal and operational perspectives.
They explained this merger is the best way to maintain the community hospital’s strength into the future.
“LifeBridge Health is the ideal partner for Union Hospital as both organizations are focused on improving the health of people in our communities,” Szumel said. “As Union Hospital becomes part of LifeBridge Health, we will enhance access to high-quality care and health services for Cecil County residents, as well as patients throughout the state and reason.”
Hamm said Union Hospital’s board has met with other Maryland medical systems in recent years and a merger with LifeBridge Health appeared to be the best option for the future of Union Hospital.
“After a lot of conversations among ourselves and potential partners, we agreed LifeBridge was the best for us,” Hamm said.
“What’s important to me is not what they say, but what they’ve done,” Hamm said, explaining they looked to how LifeBridge handled a merger with a hospital in Carroll County, Maryland, by talking to hospital officials about the process.
Hamm said LifeBridge Health’s model for healthcare mirrors Union Hospital’s goals.
“They are financially very strong. They’ve done very well,” Hamm said.
“It’s a very positive announcement for us,” Dr. Szumel said. “They share our focus.”
Szumel and Hamm said Union Hospital will retain a local board of directors to handle the operation of the institution. Union Hospital will also have representation on the LifeBridge Health board.
“Our board has been fiercely independent for a long time,” Szumel said, adding that Union Hospital will still be making many decisions locally to best serve the community.
The merger is offering many benefits to Union Hospital, Szumel and Hamm said.
LifeBridge Health has a large system of healthcare assets, from urgent care to assisted living, and Union Hospital will benefit from those services and expertise, Szumel said. Other pluses for the Union Hospital / LifeBridge Health merger include assistance with physician and nursing recruitment and help with keeping up with the ever-increasing IT technologies, Szumel and Hamm said.
Stakeholders and the Junior Board are being assured that local donations and fundraising proceeds will all still be utilized solely for the benefit of Union Hospital.
Szumel said he will continue to preside over Union Hospital and the management team will also remain intact. Hospital staff will continue to operate as usual, the President / CEO said.
Union Hospital has been partnering with the University of Maryland health system for some services. Their current partnerships expire in June, Szumel said, adding that other partnerships with healthcare groups, such as emergency services, are expected to continue.
LifeBridge Health is celebrating their 20th Anniversary in 2018. It has been primarily based in northwest Baltimore. Their facilities include Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, Northwest Hospital, Carroll Hospital, Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital as well as LifeBridge Health & Fitness. LifeBridge’s 2016 report said they have more than 10,000 employees and approximately 3,000 affiliated primary care and specialty physicians throughout the region and many affiliated health-related partners. Their hospitals have more than 1,200 beds. In 2016, their gross patient revenues totaled just under $2 billion.
LifeBridge Health focuses on preventive services, wellness and fitness services and programs to educate their local communities.
Neil Meltzer, president and CEO of LifeBridge Health, agreed that they share the same goals and philosophies as Union Hospital.
“As we look to build on the success of Union Hospital’s clinical services and community health focus, we look forward to partnering with our new physician, staff and community colleagues to bring the best health care to the people we serve,” Meltzer said.