CHS to buy Sharon Regional Hospital

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Sharon Regional Health System said Wednesday it’s in talks to be sold to Community Health Systems, the same Tennessee-based company that owns, operates or leases 135 hospitals in 29 states and bought Forum Health three years ago.

Community Health Systems is the parent company of ValleyCare Health System of Ohio, which currently operates Northside Hospital in Youngstown, and Trumbull Memorial and Hillside Rehabilitation hospitals in Warren.

“We engaged in a thorough and thoughtful process to ensure the best possible future for Sharon Regional and determined that affiliating with Community Health Systems, a highly regarded national health care organization, provides the greatest opportunity for building our future success,” said William Strimbu, chairman of the board of Sharon Regional.

Sharon Regional said its board of directors recently approved and executed a non-binding letter of intent for a sale of the hospital’s assets to a subsidiary of CHS.

“This simply starts the process of us moving forward, and CHS moving forward, to take a look at each other, with the goal of completing this at the end of the due diligence period,” said Ed Newmeyer, director of marketing and community relations for Sharon Regional Health System.

It could take 60 to 90 days before the terms of the sale are known and the deal is finalized. In the meantime, Newmeyer said they’re excited about the possibilities of the new partnership and said the proposal would bring about investments in facilities and services, and includes maintaining current medical staff while hiring more professionals.

“CHS will bring to us the opportunity to invest a significant amount of capital into Sharon Regional, both in terms of technology and infrastructure for the health system, and that’s something that gets increasingly harder for community hospitals to do,” he said.

“I think what we’ve done through this announcement is just really secured the future for both the employees of Sharon Regional, the institution itself, and I think for the entire delivery of health care in this region. I mean, I think this allows us to bring a whole new level of care and expertise for the people that we serve,” Newmeyer said.

Tom Galin, vice president of corporate communications for Community Health Systems, said in an email that the company does not generally get into discussions about non-binding agreements, but said they are excited about the prospect of an affiliation with Sharon Regional Health System. He said when the deal gets to the point of a definitive agreement and the terms of the transaction have been finalized, the company will release more information.

In March, Community Health Systems announced a strategic alliance with the Cleveland Clinic and Sharon Regional stands to benefit from that partnership in terms of clinical quality and branding once the sale is complete.

“To be able to work with them on clinical quality, perhaps even some branding of our services, if they meet the standards set by Cleveland Clinic, would be a real bonus for the people in our area,” Newmeyer said.

Newmeyer said CHS expects to retain all physicians and employees in the same positions, at the same level of pay, with their years of seniority recognized.

“And the other thing we’re optimistic about is we expect this to be a growth opportunity, so we’re not looking at areas that are going to be cut, we’re looking to grow services, do things here that we’re currently not offering, and that only means bringing in additional staff,” he said.

Newmeyer said there are other closing conditions and state regulatory approvals that must be met, but a final agreement is expected by the end of the year.

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