The merger of Arlington Heights-based Northwest Community HealthCare and Evanston-based NorthShore University HealthSystem took effect Friday, and the CEOs of both companies say existing patients should expect nothing but improved accessibility and affordability of services.
"This is a driver for growth; there really isn't any downside," NCH President and CEO Steve Scogna said of the merger, announced in July. "This is probably the most exciting thing I've been involved with in my career."
Scogna said he was more comfortable about the merger at its closing than at any other point in the process, and that's significant for both him and the six decades of independence NCH leaves behind.
J.P. Gallagher, NorthShore's president and CEO, agreed.
"First and foremost, what you've come to know and trust at NCH remains the same, with some additional enhancements over time," he said.
Scogna and the NCH board of directors will remain in place.
Even the NCH logo will be retained, but with language identifying it as part of NorthShore HealthSystem.
The distinct identity NCH and Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights will maintain are reminiscent of Swedish Hospital's merger with NorthShore a year ago, Gallagher said.
At that time, NorthShore already had four hospitals -- Evanston, Glenbrook, Highland Park and Skokie. Northwest Community now stands as a western outpost of the system.
What attracted NCH, one of the few remaining independents in the region, to initiate the conversation about merging was the community-connected care model that both systems share, Scogna said.
That isn't a universal characteristic of health care providers and was seen as a major factor in the two companies' potential compatibility, he said. Their geographical proximity was just a bonus.
In addition to the efficiencies of purchasing supplies and equipment in bulk, the merged companies also will benefit their patients through their shared medical experience, clinical trials and individual specialties of care, both CEOs said.
Now combined, the two organizations' physician networks total more than 4,250 doctors working in immediate, primary, specialty and complex care.
NCH's Arlington Heights campus adds a 509-bed hospital with a Level II Trauma Center, Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and dedicated pediatric emergency department to the NorthShore system.
For its part, NorthShore has been ranked a Thomson Reuter Top 15 Major Teaching Hospital in the nation, and the system touts its implementation of advanced health information technology.
The merger was reviewed and approved over the past several months by regulators whose job it is to protect competition within the health care industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic was never an impetus for the deal and did not prove an obstacle to the merger's approval, Scogna said.
"It turned out not to interfere with the process," he said.
While future mergers are not out of the question for NorthShore, Gallagher said they would be based on a similar shared philosophy as this one and never made just for the sake of growth.
Future mergers would not threaten NCH's position within the organization or the soundness of its decision to join the NorthShore system, Scogna said.