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Two Missouri hospital systems complete merger, forming $10B system

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BJC HealthCare and Saint Luke’s Health System officially joined forces on Jan. 1. The merged organization operates 24 hospitals and will be known as BJC Health System.

On the first day of 2024, BJC HealthCare and Saint Luke’s Health System completed their merger of the Missouri hospital systems.

Image credit: BJC Health System

BJC HealthCare and Saint Luke's Health System have merged, forming BJC Health System. From left, Julie Quirin, president of BJC's Western Region, Richard J. Liekweg, BJC Health System CEO, and Nick Barto, president of BJC Health System and president of the Eastern Region. (Image: BJC Health System)

The combined organization is now moving forward as BJC Health System. The integrated academic health system boasts $10 billion in revenue and operates 24 hospitals and more than 250 clinics and healthcare locations. BJC Health System now has 44,000 workers, making it one of Missouri’s largest employers.

At the same time, the two individual brands will remain in place for their markets. The merged system will operate as BJC in the St. Louis area, its longtime base, and southern Illinois. The system will retain Saint Luke’s name in the Kansas City area and in eastern Kansas.

The systems announced in late November they had reached a formal agreement to merge and had completed the necessary steps in the regulatory process.

Richard J. Liekweg is CEO of BJC Health System. Nick Barto is serving as president of BJC Health System, as well as president of BJC’s Eastern Region. Julie Quirin, who became president of Saint Luke’s in November, will serve as president of BJC’s Western Region.

Melinda Estes, who had been CEO of Saint Luke’s, retired at the end of 2023.

Leaders of the system touted the potential to offer better care and greater access to clinical trials as a result of the merger. BJC is managing more than 3,500 clinical trials.

As a combined system, BJC says it will provide an estimated $1 billion in community benefits.

“From the moment we first explored the concept of an integrated system, we have had a clear vision to improve health care in the Midwest,” Liekweg said in a statement. “By working together to deliver extraordinary clinical care and becoming the region’s premier destination to practice medicine, we will enhance patient care and accelerate medical breakthroughs.”

In messages to the community, BJC says the merger will provide the organization with improved financial stability to meet changes in the industry. BJC also says it expects the merger could help in recruiting and retaining top talent.

BJC also noted that the merged system now includes the top three hospitals in Missouri in the U.S. News & World Reports rankings.

For now, BJC says patients will see no immediate change in the way they receive care or interact with their providers.

In the future, officials said they hope to provide a more seamless experience for patients with the merger. Both BJC and Saint Luke’s use Epic’s electronic health record system, so patients will be able to transfer their records between systems.

In a message to patients, Liekweg wrote, “We are ready to do the important work of fulfilling our vision to improve the health of our communities, and we’re honored to be part of this journey with you.”

The merger of BJC and Saint Luke’s reflects the increased consolidation in the hospital industry over the past year. Fewer health system mergers had taken place in 2021 and 2022, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but analysts say they expect to see more merger activity in the coming year.

There were 53 announced hospital mergers in the first three quarters of 2023, matching the total of mergers for all of 2022.

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