Union Hospital to become part of LifeBridge Health System

Union Hospital in Cecil County has signed a letter of intent to become a part of LifeBridge Health as it seeks more resources to serve its patients.

The two sides expect it to take several months to work out a final agreement, which must be approved by the federal government and the boards of both hospital systems.

Under the agreement, Union Hospital would become a part of a health system that includes Sinai Hospital, Northwest Hospital, Carroll Hospital, Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, and other affiliates. Union is a 122-bed nonprofit that has been in operation since 1908. It serves Cecil County and parts of Delaware and southern Pennsylvania.

Dr. Rich Szumel, Union Hospital’s president and CEO, said the merger would give the hospital more access to specialists and other resources. The hospital now has one ear, nose and throat doctor and one neurologist, which is not enough to serve all of its patients. About 400 patients a year end up having to leave the county for some treatments, executives from the two hospital systems said.

“Heath care is changing,” Szumel said. “It is the same story that is playing out across the country. It is very difficult to stay as an independent, small community hospital. We just don’t have the scale and resources to deal with regulations and everything we need to do to provide high quality health care. To be able to pick up the phone and talk to a colleague rather than a consultant that you have to pay high dollar for is invaluable.”

Union and LifeBridge Health share similar values, said Neil Meltzer, LifeBridge’s president and CEO. Both institutions believe in providing high quality care and keeping it local.

“We are really doing this in a way where we both will benefit from the relationship,” Meltzer said.

LifeBridge also had been providing some home care in Cecil County and expanding further seemed like a natural fit, Meltzer said.

Many small community hospitals have been joining or partnering with larger systems to help with increasingly complicated regulatory and administrative burdens. LifeBridge took over Carroll Hospital three years ago and Szumel said he looked at the success of that merger when approaching Meltzer about a year ago.

Much like that merger, Union Hospital will keep its board and executive team and continue to operate mostly independently. They would share some functions with LifeBridge, such as information technology and human resources. Some LifeBridge doctors would work some days at Union Hospital and they would also hire new physicians dedicated to the hospital.

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