Combining forces: Board chairs Robert Truitt of Aria Health (left, seated) and Richard Hevner of Thomas Jefferson University (right, seated) sign the Letter of Intent to work toward the integration of Aria into Jefferson Health. Pictured are (standing, from left) Dr. Stephen Klasko, president and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health; Laurence Merlis, executive vice president and COO of Jefferson Health; and Kathleen Kinslow, president and CEO of Aria Health. SOURCE: ARIA HEALTH
Northeast Philadelphia’s largest healthcare provider and one of the region’s most recognizable healthcare systems have announced plans to merge.
Officials from Aria Health joined their counterparts from Jefferson on Oct. 6 to announce the signing of a letter of intent that will allow the organizations to launch formal discussions with a goal of completing the merger next spring. Aria, which operates three hospitals in Frankford, Torresdale and Falls Township, Bucks County, would become part of Jefferson’s clinical arm, Jefferson Health, which now includes five hospitals in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks and Camden counties.
Jefferson also oversees Thomas Jefferson University, the 190-year-old health sciences education institution based in Center City.
“Joining the Jefferson team provides the greatest opportunity for Aria Health to serve Northeast Philadelphia and Bucks County for the years ahead,” said Robert Truitt, chairman of Aria’s board of directors, during a letter-signing ceremony in the atrium of the Torresdale campus’ recently constructed emergency department.
Truitt added that the merger would enable Aria to further its commitment to providing affordable community-based health care and strengthen its financial position while participating in physician recruitment, education and leadership programs.
Truitt said that the letter of intent followed a two-year strategic planning process during which Aria officials considered “dozens of potential suitors.” The Aria and Jefferson boards each voted unanimously to sign the letter of intent.
Dr. Stephen Klasko, president and chief executive of Jefferson Health, said that Aria would bring “critical capabilities as an excellent community health system — high-quality care, patient safety and efficient clinical operations — that complement Jefferson’s clinical, academic and financial strengths.”
“This is not about getting bigger. It’s about getting better,” Klasko said.
Kathleen Kinslow, Aria’s president and chief executive, said that Aria and Jefferson “had a great working relationship” before Aria began its strategic planning process.
“The key word is partnership. That is what we’ve truly become,” Kinslow said.
A merger would enable the organizations to work together to improve their information technology infrastructures, outpatient services and population health management programs, Kinslow added.
Aria would have essentially equal representation on a new board of trustees alongside officials from Jefferson and Abington. Although those participating in the letter-signing ceremony donned new “Aria Jefferson” jackets, the future branding of Aria hospitals has yet to be determined. Patients and their families should expect to see no changes in service at Aria facilities while the proposed merger is pending.
Aria’s legacy in Northeast Philadelphia dates to 1903 when Dr. Joseph Ball opened the original Frankford Hospital to serve local patients in their own community. The hospital opened a Torresdale campus in 1977 and bought the former Delaware Valley Medical Center in Lower Bucks in 1999.
Also in the ’90s, Frankford teamed with Jefferson, Main Line Health, Einstein Health and Magee Rehab in a network known as Jefferson Health System. In 2009, Frankford rebranded itself as Aria Health and left Jefferson Health System, which eventually disbanded.
Thomas Jefferson University and its affiliated hospitals merged with Abington Health in May, to create the new “Jefferson” and the clinical arm, Jefferson Health. Its hospitals include Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Abington Hospital, Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience, Methodist Hospital and Abington-Lansdale Hospital, housing more than 1,700 inpatient beds combined.
Aria’s three hospitals house more than 800 inpatient beds. ••