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Somerset Hospital Signs Joint Venture LOI With Conemaugh Health System

The board of directors at Somerset (Pa.) Hospital has signed a nonbinding letter of intent to create a collaborative partnership with Conemaugh Health System, a three-hospital system based in Johnstown, Pa.

Under the deal, Somerset Hospital would remain an independent hospital. Over the next several months, the two sides will create a joint venture operating agreement to collaborate on physician practice development and improved continuity of care.

Somerset Hospital and Conemaugh — located roughly 27 miles apart — expect to reach a definitive agreement by Jan. 1. Officials said the agreement, which is neither a merger nor acquisition, will "support job retention" but did not specifically say if departments or jobs would be cut. They also said "community benefit," not the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, was the main driver to sign a deal.

"The trend toward hospitals working together rather than competing against one another is not going away," Somerset Hospital CEO Ron Park said in a news release. "The evolution of healthcare — and increasing market and regulatory pressures — are making collaboration necessary, particularly for community hospitals. Ultimately, the people of the region benefit when resources are used to expand rather than duplicate services."

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