Good Samaritan Health System, based in Lebanon, Pennsylvania and WellSpan Health, an integrated health care system based in York, Pennsylvania, have announced plans to explore an affiliation that will strengthen community-based health care in Lebanon County.

The governing boards of both organisations have approved a memorandum of understanding that outlines the goals of the potential partnership.

The memorandum is an important step in the evaluation of an arrangement under which Good Samaritan would become part of WellSpan’s nonprofit system of care.

The next steps include a period of formal due diligence, the development of a final agreement, as well as a federal and state regulatory review period. If all goes well, the merger could be concluded at the end of 2014.

WellSpan Health is comprised of a multi-speciality medical group of more than 660 providers, a home care organisation, four hospitals, more than 11,000 employees, and 93 patient care locations.

WellSpan affiliated with Gettysburg Hospital 14 years ago and Ephrata Community Hospital last year.

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WellSpan has also provided cardiothoracic physician staffing and support to Good Samaritan for the past five years.

Good Samaritan Health System president and CEO Robert J. Longo said that at the start of the process, the Good Samaritan board of trustees focused on partnerships that would help Lebanon County residents continue to have access to high-quality health care services in the Lebanon communities.

"After a careful search, we found that WellSpan Health offered the best match for our community mission, vision, and values," Longo added.

WellSpan was the top choice because of its track record of focusing on community needs through past partnerships, such as those with Gettysburg and Ephrata Community hospitals, Longo added.

Through the affiliation the two organisations would share best practices in quality improvement, care design, chronic disease management and economies of scale.

"After a careful search, we found that WellSpan Health offered the best match for our community mission, vision, and values."

WellSpan Health president and CEO Dr Kevin H Mosser said that the American health care system is transforming, from one that primarily treats individuals when they are sick or injured to one that also manages the health of populations.

"In response, we are creating new and innovative ways to help our neighbours reach their health goals in life while preparing to care for an aging population and address a projected shortage of health professionals," Dr Mosser added.

WellSpan and Good Samaritan expect the partnership to prepare them for the transition from current care models to the new requirements for managing population health and wellness, enhance health care across central Pennsylvania, and provide stronger medical, nursing and allied health educational resources to meet the projected shortage of physicians and health care professionals.

Additionally, they hope to strengthen a model of care that is based on an individual’s relationship with a primary care physician who coordinates all the care an individual requires across the lifespan.

The Good Samaritan Hospital, a fully-accredited 172-bed acute care facility, offers complete inpatient and outpatient care, as well as an inpatient rehabilitation programme.

The Good Samaritan Health System also provides services at many other sites located throughout Lebanon County.

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