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Atrium merger with Advocate Aurora could be complete within weeks, CEO says

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A preliminary concept rendering of the proposed Wake Forest School of Medicine campus in Charlotte, which would be part of a strategic combination between Atrium Health and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

The top executive of Atrium Health said Monday that the healthcare system expects to complete within weeks its the mega-merger with Advocate Aurora.

Eugene Woods, Atrium’s president and chief executive, offered that projection Monday during Atrium’s fourth-quarter financial report to its governing body, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority’s board of commissioners.

Meanwhile, the authority approved providing $55 million toward the construction of 14-story building in Charlotte that would house the second campus of Wake Forest School of Medicine.

The combination of Atrium, the parent of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and Advocate of Downers Grove, Ill., would create the fifth largest not-for-profit health care system in the U.S. with 67 hospitals in six states.

The proposed transaction, announced May 11, must be approved by state and federal regulators, including the Federal Trade Commission.

“We anticipate hearing regarding the combination with Advocate Aurora in a matter of weeks,” Woods said. “We’re excited about entering into this next chapter

Advocate Aurora also projects the deal closing by year’s end.

The combined corporate entity would be named Advocate Health and based in Charlotte, with each system continuing to use its current name in local markets.

Woods would share chief executive responsibilities with Jim Skogsbergh, Advocate Aurora’s president and chief executive, for the first 18 months.

After that, Skogsbergh would retire and Woods would remain as chief executive.

With markets in North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, South Carolina and Wisconsin, the combined organization would serve 5.5 million patients and operate more than 1,000 doctors’ offices and 67 hospitals.

It would have more than 7,600 physicians, nearly 150,000 employees and annual revenues of more than $27 billion.

Wake Forest University School of Medicine would be the academic core of the combined entity. The Winston-Salem medical school is establishing a second campus in Charlotte. Wake Forest would be the only medical school in the system.

“We’re excited about entering into this next chapter,” Woods said.

Key approval

On Nov. 11, the systems cleared a pivotal roadblock when the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board voted 6-0 on approving the proposed change of ownership of nine Advocate Aurora hospitals and one ambulatory surgery center in Illinois to the proposed combined healthcare system.

According to Becker’s Hospital Review, the review board’s vote is needed since the proposed merger would change by at least 50% “the voting members of a nonprofit corporation’s board of directors that controls a healthcare facility’s operation, license, certification or physical plant and assets.”

The Chicago Tribune reported Monday that Advocate Aurora officials used the past two months to “answer many of the board’s questions in letters sent to the board, such as the reasons for the combination and the proposed governance structure.”

Atrium and Advocate said they would pledge to create more than 20,000 new jobs across the communities they serve.

The systems touted their proposed combined clinical excellence — including in medical research and population health — as well as advanced capabilities in data analytics and digital consumer infrastructure as key value accelerators.

The N.C. Attorney General’s Office, which conducts anti-trust reviews of hospital merger applications, has said it “intends to closely watch this deal.”

Wake medical school update

The hospital authority approved providing $105 million toward the construction of two anchor buildings within the healthcare section of Atrium’s planned $1.5 billion Charlotte innovation and research district.

The 40-acre district, which has been branded as The Pearl, will include the second campus of Wake Forest School of Medicine as an anchor.

The approved capital investment funding is $55 million toward the academic building with the medical school, and $50 million toward the research building.

The academic center will be 14 stories and 300,000 square feet, while the next-door research center will be 310,000 square feet.

Both buildings are expected to begin construction in 2023 and be completed by 2025. The medical school is projected to debut in fall 2025.

Charlotte is the nation’s largest city without a four-year medical school.

Atrium and developer Wexford Science & Technology LLC have proposed that at least 11,500 new jobs, including potentially between 3,450 and 4,600 that won’t require a four-year college degree, would be created over 15 years associated with the initiative. About 5,500 would be situated within the district.

The district is slated to feature mixed-use development featuring education, retail, apartments, a hotel and an open community space.



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