Baptist Health South Florida has signed a preliminary agreement to begin exploratory discussions with Bethesda Health, a hospital network in Palm Beach County, regarding a potential partnership and affiliation.

Executives from the two organisations anticipate the exploration process to take several months, and any final agreement would be subject to board approvals and necessary regulatory approvals.

Baptist Health is the largest healthcare organisation in the region, with seven hospitals (Baptist Hospital, Baptist Children’s Hospital, Doctors Hospital, Homestead Hospital, Mariners Hospital, South Miami Hospital and West Kendall Baptist Hospital) and more than 30 outpatient and urgent care facilities spanning three counties.

In January 2014, Baptist Health announced the construction of a $400m cancer institute scheduled to break ground in July. The new cancer centre will feature the first proton therapy centre in South Florida.

Baptist Health South Florida president and CEO Brian E. Keeley said the hospital sees a very positive cultural fit between the two organisations.

"This possible affiliation would give us the opportunity to jointly develop and share best practices in order to continue improving quality and access to care for our patients. It will also allow us to better prepare for healthcare reform and the Affordable Care Act," Keeley added.

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Bethesda Health is comprised of two not-for-profit hospitals, Bethesda Hospital East and Bethesda Hospital West, which are supported by philanthropic community members through the Bethesda Hospital Foundation.

Bethesda Health president and CEO Roger L. Kirk stressed the importance of exploring partnerships that can ensure the organisations remain on the leading edge as providers of quality medical care.

"As not-for-profit hospitals, we share similar missions and a common vision for improving the health of our respective communities that can be significantly strengthened by this potential affiliation," Kirk added.

Image: Baptist Health Urgent Care located in Sawgrass. Photo courtesy of Baptist Health South Florida.