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New details on 4-hospital merger in Chicago

The leaders of four hospitals on Chicago's South Side shared additional details about their plan to merge at a virtual town hall meeting this week, according to Chicago Block Club

The four hospitals, Advocate Trinity Hospital, Mercy Hospital & Medical Center, South Shore Hospital and St. Bernard Hospital, signed a letter of intent to combine into a single health system in January. 

Here are some of the details:

1. The four hospitals plan to reach a final agreement in June.

2. Once the new health system is formed, one or two new "destination hospitals" will be built to replace the existing facilities. The new hospitals will provide 24-hour emergency services and cut the 50 percent vacancy rate at the existing facilities, South Shore Hospital President Tim Caveney said at the town hall meeting.

3. The system plans to build three to six large community health centers. The health centers would offer outpatient mental health services, urgent care, primary care and specialty services.

"No hospital will close before one of the new centers is built, open and serving patients," St. Bernard Hospital President Charles Holland said during the meeting. "This is not a plan for closure; this is a plan for building something new."

4. The system does not plan to build a trauma center because they are "very expensive to maintain," Mr. Caveney said.

5. Over the next eight to 10 years, hospital leaders plan to spend $1.1 billion on the merger, according to the report. They will pay $100 million in cash up front and expect to bring in an additional $800 million from operating revenue and debt-financing. The hospitals are asking Illinois to pay $520 million to fund the merger and hope to raise $200 million from donations. 

6. The newly formed system also said it will spend money to transition a single EHR.

7. The four existing hospitals combined lost $76 million last year, according to the report. Combining may help improve the finances the hospitals, bolster bargaining power with insurers and suppliers, cut duplicative services and eliminate other expenses, such as equipment.

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