EAST LIVERPOOL - The group which operates East Liverpool City Hospital announced late Thursday night that it has signed a letter of intent to merge with Humility of Mary Health Partners, hospital officials said.
But outside of short, prepared news releases, HMHP is not commenting on the merger, and the hospital has said very little about what the move means for patients, staff and the areas involved.
River Valley Health Partners made the decision following an "exhaustive search" by RVHP board of trustees and administrators, according to a news release sent out just before midnight.
Bob Shroder, CEO and president with HMHP, in the release called the move a step forward for HMHP.
"This partnership supports our strategic effort to extend our reach in developing a network of health care services," Shroder said. "We look forward to having River Valley Health Partners join our ministry."
RVHP President and CEO Kenneth Cochran stated that he believes the move will provide the East Liverpool City Hospital with financial stability, along with quality care to the patients.
"The community's interest has always been and will always be our top priority," Cochran said. "We have been looking diligently for a long-term organizational partner that will provide high quality care to our community.
"The reality is that RVHP will be able to serve more patients in more ways with HMHP by its side."
East Liverpool City Hospital opened in 1905 and is one of the last remaining independently owned hospitals in the area.
HMHP is part of Catholic Health Partners, the largest health care system in Ohio. In Trumbull and Mahoning counties, the group owns St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown and Boardman, as well as St. Joseph Health Center in Warren.
RVHP Board of Trustees Chair Pete Wicks said that while East Liverpool City Hospital is not religiously affiliated, the values held by HMHP should not conflict with its own.
"The mission, vision and principles espoused by HMHP are absolutely consistent with RVHP's core values," Wicks said. "If operational changes are required during this transition - whether for religious purposes or otherwise - the board of trustees and administrators are committed to sharing and managing the changes as effectively as possible."
Wicks did not elaborate on what those potential changes may include.
Tina Creighton, HMHP spokeswoman, declined to comment on the merger Friday evening.
According to the release, over the next several weeks, HMHP will work closely with RVHP administrators, board members, and medical staff members to prepare a seamless transition.
Pending regulatory approval and finalization of terms, the official merger will likely occur this summer.
Until that time, RVHP and HMHP will each continue providing patient care.
As part of its decision to partner with HMHP, the RVHP Board of Trustees agreed to establish the RVHP Healthcare Foundation, which will focus on providing healthcare to the poor and underserved.
This mission is consistent with HMHP's mission to extend "the healing ministry of Jesus by improving the health of our communities with emphasis on people who are poor and underserved."
The RVHP Healthcare Foundation is planned to be operational by the end of 2014.