Emory, WellStar in talks to merge

Emory University and WellStar Health System are in talks to create a new healthcare system in what WellStar CEO Reynold Jennings calls a merger of equals.

In combining Emory University-owned Emory Healthcare and not-for-profit WellStar Health System, the partners aim to combine “the best of community-based care and the best of academic medicine,” according to a joint statement released by both organizations. No layoffs are planned

The resulting healthcare system would be the largest in the region, incorporating Emory Healthcare’s six hospitals and WellStar’s five, in addition to the latter’s rehabilitation, hospice and urgent care centers.

Prior to transferring five local hospitals to the new entity, WellStar would need approval from local healthcare authorities, Modern Healthcare reported. Emory would need cooperation from Trinity Health, which owns a 49% share of St. Joseph’s Hospital of Atlanta, before that hospital could become a part of the new system.

If the merger proceeds as planned, it would provide Emory Healthcare greater access to patients in Cobb County, home turf of Marietta, Ga.-based WellStar, according to an article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle

"Most mergers put a strong system, board and management together with a weaker system; the board and manager of the stronger system stay, and those from the weaker system leave,” Jennings told the Business Chronicle. “But in this case, you have two well-branded, strong systems...it's a merger of equals."

The president of Emory University, Jim Wagner, told the newspaper that Emory would continue to place its residents at Grady Memorial Hospital, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the VA hospitals.

According to a joint statement from the two organizations, the executive committee of the Emory University Board of Trustees and the WellStar Health System Board of Trustees agreed to continue discussions for a 45-day period, “in preparation for committing to a multistep design process for the new health system that would take about a year to complete.”