Bluefield (W.Va.) Regional Medical Center and Princeton (W.Va.) Community Hospital said they will start negotiations in January 2005 on a possible merger, less than two weeks after the hospitals agreed to end their joint venture on open-heart surgery and cancer programs under a proposed consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department. Steve Caywood, Princeton Community's interim chief executive officer, said both hospitals face financial difficulties that collaboration could ease. Caywood said negotiating teams will consider options short of a merger, but a merger is the most likely outcome. Although the proposed consent decree would not cover an agreement, Caywood said the hospitals would submit any agreement to the Justice Department for clearance. A merger would require approval from the state Health Care Authority. There is no deadline for reaching an agreement. -- by Vince Galloro
After antitrust probe, W.Va. hospitals eye new ties
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