Intermountain Healthcare announced Thursday that the organization is merging with SCL Health, a faith-based, nonprofit health care organization based in Colorado.
The two organizations are located in adjacent areas with no geographic overlap, so together they will employ more than 58,000 caregivers, operate 33 hospitals and run 385 clinics across Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado, Montana and Kansas.
SCL Health is a $2.8 billion health network that provides comprehensive, coordinated care in hospitals, clinics, home health, hospice and mental health services across Colorado, Montana and Kansas. It brings eight hospitals and more than 160 physician clinics into the merger. Their hospitals will retain their names and their Catholic identity, directives and values.
Both organizations are nationally recognized, leading health care networks with a wide base, and the CEOs of both organizations say this was a voluntary move rather than a necessary one. They also say that the move wasn't spurred by the pandemic, though the pandemic did show how each organization navigated a crisis and that increase their respect for each other.
"SCL Health and Intermountain are pursuing our merger from positions of strength," said Lydia Jumonville, president and CEO of SCL Health. "We are two individually strong health systems that are seeking to increase care quality, accessibility and affordability. We will advance our missions and better serve the entire region together."
For Intermountain, those strengths are population health expertise, a digital health platform and an extensive telehealth network. SCL Health brings expertise in operating a health care organization across multiple states to the table.
The merged organization will be based in Salt Lake City with a regional office in Broomfield, Colorado, and will retain nonprofit status. Dr. Marc Harrison will oversee the combined organization as president and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare, along with an integrated executive leadership team. Jumonville will remain CEO of SCL Health and serve as a board member on the new combined board.
"We're excited to merge with SCL Health to usher in a new frontier for the health of communities throughout the Intermountain West and beyond," Harrison said. "American health care needs to accelerate the evolution toward population health and value, and this merger will swiftly advance that cause across a broader geography. We'll bring together the best practices of both organizations to do even more to enhance clinical excellence, transform the patient experience, and support healthy lives."
Intermountain Healthcare had planned to merge with a different organization, Sanford Health, earlier this year, but the merger failed to happen when Sanford split with its former president and CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft in November 2020, after he allegedly refused to wear a mask because he had already contracted COVID-19 once.
At the time, Harrison, said, "We are disappointed but understand the recent leadership change at Sanford Health has influenced their priorities.
"There's much to admire about the work that Sanford Health is doing. We continue to share a strong vision for the future of health care," he said.
Sanford, as well as SCL Health, were both founded upon Christian platforms of service and caring for the sick and the poor, which is similar to Intermountain, which was founded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Harrison said that Sanford's leadership changes in the middle of the merger were "disruptive" and "did derail" the agreement, but it paved the way for the current merger because SCL Health learned that Intermountain wanted to expand.
President Joe Biden's most recent executive order states that hospital mergers would be especially scrutinized during this time, but Harrison said that although he isn't "a regulatory whiz," he believes that the nation would be hard pressed to find two health care organizations more dedicated to keeping costs down.
"In many ways we represent the model merger," he said. "We can't guarantee prices will never go up, but look at our track record."
SCL Health currently requires COVID-19 vaccination for its employees in accordance with state law. Intermountain has not made an official requirement, but Harrison said the organization has "always been compliant with federal regulations."
"We would never leave our patients in a lurch. We'll do whatever we need to do to be able to take care of people," he added.
With the resurgence of COVID-19, the leaders of the organizations have stated that they will prioritize caregiver and patient well-being above all else. The merger is expected to close in early 2022.