The two largest hospitals in Camden, N.J., hope to merge.
Catholic Health East, the parent of 306-bed Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, said last week that it plans to acquire struggling Cooper Health System, which includes 460-bed Cooper Hospital-University Medical Center.
The two hospitals control almost 87% of the acute-care beds in Camden, according to American Hospital Association data.
Camden's only other hospital is 117-bed West Jersey Hospital, part of Virtua Health, a five-hospital system headquartered in Marlton, N.J.
Virtua has no plans to oppose a deal between CHE and Cooper, said Donald Brunn, vice president of health services at Virtua. He said Cooper clearly needs a strong partner.
"I think it's in the best interest of that community," Brunn said.
Cooper and CHE said they are proceeding with a letter of intent, which should be signed in the next two weeks.
A purchase price for Cooper has not been determined, said Sal Foti, a spokesman for CHE, a Newtown Square, Pa.-based Roman Catholic system of 32 hospitals.
"We're at the beginning," he said.
Cooper and CHE have been talking about a possible merger for "the last several months," according to a written statement the two released.
Cooper recently has struggled financially. Kathy McLaughlin, a Cooper spokeswoman, said the system of one hospital and five outpatient centers lost $16 million last year on total revenues of $362 million.
Our Lady of Lourdes earned almost $5 million on total patient revenues of $269 million in 1997, according to HCIA, a Baltimore-based healthcare information company. More recent financial data were unavailable.