Advocate Aurora, Atrium Health systems to merge

The deal unites the largest Chicago-area health care network with a group based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Jim Skogsbergh (left), president and CEO of Advocate Aurora Health, with Eugene Woods, president and CEO of Atrium Health.

Jim Skogsbergh (left), president and CEO of Advocate Aurora Health, with Eugene Woods, president and CEO of Atrium Health.

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Advocate Aurora Health, the largest health care system in the Chicago area, said Wednesday it will merge with Atrium Health in a deal executives promised would strengthen health care across six states.

The nonprofit systems are similarly sized and will continue to use their brand names in their respective markets but together will be called Advocate Health. No assets or workers will be moved, but the new organization will use Atrium Health’s base in Charlotte, North Carolina, as its headquarters.

Downers Grove-based Advocate Aurora said significant operations will continue in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas. The combined organization’s assets include 67 hospitals, among them Advocate Lutheran General in Park Ridge, Advocate Christ in Oak Lawn and Advocate Illinois Masonic in Chicago.

No cash will change hands. Executives said the merger agreement leaves the organizations responsible for their own debts.

“Together, we can do more, be better and go faster,” Jim Skogsbergh, president and CEO of Advocate Aurora said in a news release. “This combination harnesses our complementary strengths and expertise of our doctors, nurses and teammates to lead health care’s transformation for those we are so proud to serve.”

His counterpart at Atrium Health, Eugene Woods, said, “The world of health care as we know it is changing at warp speed — and it is rapidly becoming more digital, personalized, scientific and complex. This strategic combination will enable us to deepen our commitments to health equity, create more jobs and opportunities for our teammates and communities, launch new game-changing innovations and so much more.”

The merger would give both organizations equal representation on the combined board. Skogsbergh and Woods will serve as co-CEOs for 18 months, at which point Skogsbergh will retire and Woods will continue as sole CEO.

The separate boards unanimously approved the merger. It would become final after regulatory review, possibly this summer.

The Advocate Health operations are in Illinois, Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. The combined system serves 5.5 million patients and generates annual revenue of more than $27 billion.

Advocate Health has made a $2 billion pledge to address health care inequities in poor communities. Part of that commitment involves an institute for health equity in Milwaukee. It also said it plans to add 20,000 jobs to its current employee count of 150,000.

Wake Forest University School of Medicine will be the academic base of Advocate Health.

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