Less than a week after announcing it will acquire Blue Mountain Health System, St. Luke's University Health Network said this morning it will merge with Sacred Heart HealthCare System in Allentown.
The struggling Sacred Heart, which has been facing financial difficulties, had been in talks with other health care organizations and chose SLUHN after several months, officials said.
The agreement was unanimously approved by the boards of both nonprofit organizations and signed Friday. The merger is expected to be completed by early next year, pending regulatory approval.
Founded as a Catholic medical center in 1912 during a diphtheria epidemic, Sacred Heart Hospital will retain its Catholic identity, officials said, which means its services are based on the religion’s ethical and religious directives.
“Sacred Heart is excited to enter into this affiliation with St. Luke’s,” John Nespoli, president and CEO of Sacred Heart HealthCare System, said in a statement.
“St. Luke’s has an incredible track record of working successfully with community hospitals. With the partnership of St. Luke’s, Sacred Heart will offer our physicians and employees growth opportunities and, most importantly, continue with our charitable mission in the heart of the city.”
Sacred Heart’s name will likely be incorporated in the new name, SLUHN said. Buildings named after donors to the hospital also will be honored, it said.
Sacred Heart HealthCare System employs more than 1,070 people in its network, which includes Sacred Heart Hospital in downtown Allentown, primary care centers at 10 sites throughout the Lehigh Valley and senior housing services.
Like the merger with Blue Mountain, St. Luke’s said Sacred Heart employees’ compensation and opportunities will be enhanced from merger.
SLUHN said the agreement includes a commitment to retain the members of the medical staff at Sacred Heart and assume physician employment agreements, and maintain charity care policies similar to other St. Luke’s hospitals.
SLUHN is one of the two largest health systems in the Lehigh Valley, with seven hospitals and more than 270 outpatient sites serving 10 counties in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Paul Huck, chairman of Sacred Heart HealthCare System’s board of directors, said in a statement: “This affiliation agreement was made with the best interests of our patients, our physicians, our employees and our community in mind. St. Luke’s long history of enriching the hospitals that join its network make it the ideal partner. This collaboration will ensure that the health care needs of people in the Lehigh Valley and the region will continue to receive the quality, compassionate care that has been the mainstay of Sacred Heart for over 100 years.”