Ochsner Health completes merger with Rush Health Systems

The Louisiana-based system adds Rush’s 7 hospitals and more than 30 clinics. The Rush system will now be known as Ochsner Rush Health.

Ochsner Health said Monday it has finalized its merger with Rush Health Systems, and the organization now boasts a larger footprint along the Gulf Coast.

Rush will be now known as Ochsner Rush Health. With the move, Ochsner gains Rush’s seven hospitals and more than 30 clinics. Ochsner Rush Health will anchor the system’s healthcare services in eastern Mississippi and western Alabama.

The two systems announced their intention to merge in June 2021. Ochsner, based in Louisiana, runs 40 hospitals and more than 300 health and urgent care centers. The merger comes as hospital consolidations have slowed down over the last two years, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Warner Thomas, Ochsner Health’s president and CEO, touted the promise of the merger in a news release Monday.

​​“We are committed to continuing the 100-year legacy of Rush Health Systems’ founders and are truly excited that they have joined the Ochsner family,” Thomas said in the statement. “We look forward to building upon the work Rush has done to improve care in Mississippi and Alabama. Together, we are combining our strengths to lead healthcare innovation in the Gulf South.

“Technology and integration are critically important in today’s healthcare environment,” he added. “Maintaining a shared focus on opportunities will strengthen our organization and ensure Ochsner Rush Health’s ability to provide care for future generations.”

Ochsner Rush Health will be governed by a board including local community members, a local doctor and representatives from Ochsner Health, the systems said in a news release.

All medical staff retain their privileges at Ochsner Rush Health and patients can still use their insurance at all facilities, the news release stated.

Larkin Kennedy, CEO of Ochsner Rush Health, called it “an exciting time for our community.”

“As Ochsner Rush Health, our patients will benefit from the skills and experience of both teams with enhanced access to new services and highly specialized care,” Kennedy said in a statement. “By coming together, we’ll be able to do more to enhance and expand clinical services focused on the critical needs of the communities we serve while ensuring our patients have access to local, high-quality care for generations to come.”

The systems said the merger will give patients more opportunities to get top-notch care closer to where they live, including greater access to specialty services such as cardiology, cancer treatment, stroke care and women’s services.

The systems pledged to provide more efficient and affordable care, by finding efficiencies and using the safety to invest in more healthcare programs.

In addition, Ochsner said the merger provides patients more access to telehealth, remote patient monitoring and “clinical improvements guided by artificial intelligence.”

Patients in Ochsner Rush Health will also benefit patients by giving them access to Ochsner’s clinical research network, enabling them to receive novel therapies.

Ochsner and Rush formed a strategic partnership in 2019, with Ochsner offering its telemedicine services, billing practices and other services. Ochsner Chief Medical Officer Robert Hart said the merger offers the opportunity for more healthcare services.

“We are thrilled to bring the talent and knowledge of our physicians and providers together to benefit patients so that we can provide even more services for patients in east Mississippi and west Alabama,” Hart said in the news release.

Some employees are getting a boost in pay with the merger, the systems said.  With the merger, Ochsner Rush Health sees an increase in the minimum wage to $12 per hour, raising the pay of more than 400 workers, the systems said.

Rush’s hospitals are being rebranded to reflect the new organization. They’ll be known as:

  • Ochsner Rush Medical Center
  • Ochsner Specialty Hospital
  • Ochsner Choctaw General
  • Ochsner Scott Regional
  • Ochsner Laird Hospital
  • Ochsner Stennis Hospital
  • Ochsner Watkins Hospital

While there have been a small number of healthcare mergers in 2022, analysts expect to see more dealmaking in the coming months as hospitals resume more long-range planning since the arrival of COVID-19 more than two years ago.

Atrium Health and Advocate Aurora Health announced their plans to merge in the spring. If regulators approve the deal, the merger would lead to an organization with 67 hospitals and $27 billion in annual revenue. Analysts say if the merger is approved, other health systems could pursue similar deals.

Industry observers say it’s likely that some hospitals and smaller health systems facing financial woes will need to find partners in order to survive. Some analysts also note the Biden administration is giving more scrutiny to hospital mergers, particularly with systems operating in overlapping markets.

Ochsner Health was named a finalist for the American Hospital Association’s Quest for Quality last month. Ochsner was hailed for its collaboration to produce better outcomes for patients.