Greater Hazleton Health Alliance (GHHA) and Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) today announced they have signed an agreement for a full asset merger pending regulatory approval. The GHHA Board of Directors approved the merger on April 3 and the LVHN Board of Trustees executive committee on April 16 with the full Board of Trustees ratification expected May 1.

The decision by the boards of both organizations builds upon a historical relationship. The organizations began to develop formal clinical partnerships about four years ago in the areas of MI alert response for heart care, emergency department coverage by LVHN physicians at Hazleton, and various telemedicine initiatives including tele-obstetrics, tele-burn, tele-infectious disease consults and tele-stroke care to utilize LVHN's specialist care capabilities in efficient ways to enhance the delivery of high-quality care to residents in the Hazleton region.

"The patient-centered partnerships we have formed over the years speak volumes about the similar cultures of caring and compassion that exist at both the Greater Hazleton Health Alliance and Lehigh Valley Health Network," said Jim Edwards, president and CEO, GHHA. "Both organizations value their people and realize that's where the care starts. That's what has made working together a natural fit and what makes merging the logical choice, especially in today's ever changing health care environment."

Ronald Swinfard, LVHN's president and CEO, agrees that the two organizations have a symmetry that works. "Hazleton General Hospital is a highly-valued, independent, community hospital that takes care of the people in this area. The leadership of the Greater Hazleton Health Alliance is to be commended for their exceptional stewardship. We respect what they've done and feel being a merged organization will allow us to continue to learn from one another and make a great situation even better for our communities."

Greater Hazleton Health Alliance includes Hazleton General Hospital with 150 licensed beds, and the Hazleton Health & Wellness Center, the hospital's newest outpatient center providing diagnostic testing and rehabilitation, as well as ambulatory surgery. GHHA employs over 1,000 people and has a medical staff of more than 100 physicians. GHHA also operates a multispecialty health network of primary and specialty physicians and surgeons in 15 offices throughout the northeast region. Lehigh Valley Health Network employs over 12,000 people, has a medical staff of almost 1,200 and operates nearly 1,000 licensed acute beds at three hospital locations. In addition, the health network operates nine health centers and numerous primary and specialty care physician practices throughout the Lehigh Valley region.

Officials said they anticipate the health care needs in each of their communities will continue to grow and, pending regulatory approval, they plan to do a needs assessment to determine how the merged organization can meet those needs going forward.

"Health care reform is changing the landscape from a system that treats patients when they are sick or injured to one that also makes managing the health of our community a priority," said Thomas Kennedy, chair, GHHA's Board of Directors. "The trend around the nation is to develop these affiliations to keep people healthy and provide the highest quality care as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible when they need it."

William Hecht, chair, LVHN's Board of Trustees, said many Hazleton area residents have chosen LVHN for care when they needed a specialist that wasn't available in their area, which is why a merger is the perfect next step. "More than 40 years ago, LVHN's modern day founder, Leonard Parker Pool, was driven by a vision – to create a superior, regional hospital that would allow local people to get specialty care without leaving the area. This agreement has the potential to do just that by increasing access to specialty care right here in the Hazleton community."

Greater Hazleton Health Alliance is a not-for-profit healthcare system that is dedicated to providing high quality, state-of-the-art, customer-focused healthcare services. Its affiliated entities include the 150-bed Hazleton General Hospital (for inpatient acute and rehab care, emergency care, maternity and home care), the Hazleton Health & Wellness Center (for outpatient surgery, diagnostic testing, and rehabilitation services), and Alliance Medical Group (a multi-specialty physician network). HGH was the first accredited Primary Care Stroke Center in northeast Pennsylvania. It is also an accredited Chest Pain Center and a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence. HGH is the recipient of several quality awards in heart failure, stroke, and coronary artery disease care by the American Heart Association, and has been recognized by HealthGrades for Excellence in Patient Safety for five consecutive years (2008-2012) and Pulmonary Care for two years (2012-2013). Additional information is available at ghha.org and by following us on Facebook.

Lehigh Valley Health Network includes three hospital facilities - two in Allentown and one in Bethlehem; nine health centers caring for communities in four counties; primary and specialty care physician practices; pharmacy, imaging, home health services and lab services; and preferred provider services through Valley Preferred. Specialty care includes: trauma care at the region's busiest, most-experienced trauma center treating adults and children, burn care at the regional Burn Center, kidney and pancreas transplants; perinatal/neonatal, cardiac, cancer care, and neurology and complex neurosurgery capabilities including national certification as a Comprehensive Stroke Center. Children's Hospital at Lehigh Valley Hospital, the only children's hospital in the region, provides care in 28 specialties and general pediatrics. Lehigh Valley Health Network has been recognizedhttp://www.lvh.org/awards by US News & World Report for 17 consecutive years as one of America's Best Hospitals and is a national Magnet hospital for excellence in nursing. Lehigh Valley Health Network's Cancer Center is one of only 21 sites nationwide that partners with the national Cancer Institute's Community Cancer Centers Program. Additional information is available at lvhn.orghttp://lvhn.org and by following us on facebook.com/LVHealthNetwork and twitter.com/LVHN_MediaTeam.