Duke LifePoint to buy Conemaugh Health

JOHNSTOWN – Conemaugh Health System has agreed to be acquired by Duke LifePoint Healthcare, a for-profit joint venture of Duke University Health System Inc. and LifePoint Hospitals founded in 2011 and based in Brentwood, Tenn.

In a Friday morning announcement at the hospital’s Conemaugh Memorial Clinical Pavilion Atrium, executives announced the hospital’s board of directors and LifePoint had signed a letter of intent for the acquisition, with Duke agreeing to invest more than $500 million over the next 10 years.

“Today’s announcement marks a banner day for our community,” said Ron Vickroy, chairman of Conemaugh’s board of directors in a press release. “Through a thoughtful, deliberate exploration process, our board’s goal was to find a partner that would strengthen quality and access to care, as well as bring substantial investment and resources to our community.”

“We believe that Duke LifePoint is the perfect fit, and we are thrilled to move forward together.”

The acquisition will include Conemaugh Health System’s three hospitals, outpatient centers and Conemaugh Physician Group practices, officials said.

Officials said the acquisition took months of planning using the health care banking firm Juniper Advisory, which helped Conemaugh’s board review several possible affiliates.

Scott Becker, Conemaugh Health System’s chief executive officer, said he was impressed that so many organizations were interested in the hospital, which shows the quality of work and respect Conemaugh has earned over the last several years.

“This is a significant tribute to our employees, physicians and our board,” Becker said in a press release. “This partnership marks a new era of health care for our region, and we could not be more excited about the future.”

Both systems will now begin to negotiate the terms of a definitive agreement, which should close in late 2014, according to Becker. He also said no employee layoffs are planned as part of the agreement.

Conemaugh will maintain a local board – which will include local community members, physicians from the active medical staff, the CEO and a representative from Duke – as part of the agreement.

Duke LifePoint’s status as a for-profit system should bring more tax revenue to the area, according to officials, with the expected launch of several construction projects – including outpatient centers in Richland and Ebensburg and a medical education conference center – in the coming years.

More information about the acquisition can be found online at www.conemaughupdate.org.