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Swedish Covenant plans to join NorthShore by the end of this year

The independent Northwest Side hospital sees the merger as an opportunity to grow.

Swedish Covenant Hospital
Swedish Covenant Hospital
Google

Swedish Covenant Health has signed an agreement to join NorthShore University HealthSystem by the end of this year, pending regulatory approval.

“Becoming part of the NorthShore family gives us the ability to grow now and for the foreseeable future,” Swedish Covenant President and CEO Anthony Guaccio said. “Our community will now have access to the finest physicians in Illinois and, in some cases, the country.”

The partnership, announced Thursday, will provide Swedish Covenant’s patients access to NorthShore’s health care network as well as its digital record keeping software.

Evanston-based NorthShore has over 130 care sites and 700 licensed beds at four hospitals in Evanston, Glenview, Skokie and Highland Park. The 127-year-old network employs 10,000 people.

The smaller Swedish Covenant, 5140 N. California Ave., has served Chicago’s North and Northwest Sides for 133 years. The 312-bed facility has over 2,500 employees.

Executives from both networks wouldn’t put a dollar value on the deal.

Both health systems are profitable. NorthShore’s net income was over $72 million in fiscal year 2017, the most recent filing available. Swedish Covenant’s net income was $14.8 million.

Gerald Gallagher, president and CEO of NorthShore, said his company is committed to helping Swedish Covenant grow while keeping it as an acute-care and safety net hospital. He said “significant investment” will happen by expanding Swedish Covenant community services and outreach efforts.

The combined operation will also look for opportunities to open immediate care sites and other outpatient facilities throughout the neighborhood, Gallagher said. By working with a health care provider that has deep roots in the community will help NorthShore garner trust from residents.

“As we spend time together with the community it will allow us to do more together than if we were to do it independently,” Gallagher said.

It’s unclear if Swedish Covenant will undergo a complete name change.

“We certainly feel like the Swedish Covenant name has a brand and value to our community,” Guaccio said. “But we certainly want to incorporate NorthShore into our name now that we are family.”

Elyse Forkosh Cutler, president of Sage Health Strategy, said hospital mergers always create some uncertainty in the minds of patients and employees.

“Community-based concerns are always there,” Cutler said. “It’s important that hospital leadership engages the community before, during and after a merger to really understand what the needs are in a community.”

Gallagher said community meetings will happen in the near future.

“This merger is not based on reducing headcount. . . . This will probably bring in additional jobs,” Gallagher said.

Earlier this year, Swedish Covenant was reportedly exploring a merger with Rush University Medical Center.

NorthShore dropped a merger with Advocate Health Care in 2017 after a lengthy court fight with the Federal Trade Commission, which said the merger would harm consumers.

Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South and West sides.