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Pennsylvania health system strikes deal to acquire hospital


WellSpan Health announces its plans to bring Evangelical Community Hospital into the system.

WellSpan Health is looking to expand its footprint in central Pennsylvania.

Images: WellSpan Health, Evangelical Community Hospital

Roxanna Gapstur, president and CEO of WellSpan Health, left, and Kendra Aucker, president and CEO of Evangelical Community Hospital.

The Pennsylvania-based system said Monday it plans to acquire Evangelical Community Hospital, a 131-bed hospital, and its associated clinics and outpatient locations. The hospital is based in Lewisburg, a community about 60 miles north of Harrisburg.

Assuming regulators give their approval, WellSpan said it hopes to complete the transaction by July 1, 2024. When the deal is complete, the hospital will be known as WellSpan Evangelical Community Hospital.

The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

More hospital mergers have been taking place in recent months, and analysts expect to see more deals in the near future, particularly as some hospitals face considerable financial strain. Kendra Aucker, president and CEO of Evangelical Community Hospital, pointed to the challenging landscape in a statement about the deal.

“We recognize the shared vision WellSpan has for community-based care, and we were deliberate in the decision to choose a partner who would ensure our patients continue to receive the high quality care they have come to expect from Evangelical Community Hospital,” Aucker said in her statement. “The industry is facing strong financial and workforce headwinds, and this integration will provide the best path forward, so we may continue to provide for the health and wellness needs of our communities well into the future.”

Assuming regulatory approval, Evangelical will join WellSpan, which operates eight hospitals and many physicians offices and outpatient facilities in 12 counties across central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland.

Roxanna Gapstur, president and CEO of WellSpan Health, said the move fits with WellSpan’s goals of “innovation while keeping healthcare local.”

“As the only locally-governed health system in Central Pennsylvania, our mission is focused on improving the health of our friends and neighbors. When health outcomes improve through innovative care models, strategic partnerships, and a strong sense of purpose, it creates a fantastic combination,” Gapstur said in a statement.

“We have great respect for what Evangelical Community Hospital means to its surrounding communities and we know our mutual values of integrity and respect for all will make this a great fit,” she added.

WellSpan said it would create a separate philanthropic foundation to help generate support for Evangelical, just as the system has done for other hospitals.

Evangelical Community Hospital received a five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services last year. After the hospital received the rating, Aucker said in a statement, “This five-star rating is another affirmation that regardless of healthcare facility size, the heart of healthcare lives in the compassionate delivery of medical expertise.”

Pennsylvania has seen a few hospital deals in recent months.

Jefferson Health said in December it plans to acquire the Lehigh Valley Health Network, based in northeastern Pennsylvania. If approved, the merger will create a 30-hospital system. Penn Medicine said in January that it plans to acquire Doylestown Health, as Penn continues its expansion beyond Philadelphia and into the surrounding suburbs.

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