Chicago-area’s NorthShore, Edward Elmhurst in talks to combine
Evanston-based NorthShore University HealthSystem is in merger talks with Naperville-based Edward Elmhurst Health, sources close to the hospitals say.
A combination would create a nine-hospital network, including a behavioral health hospital, and give fast-growing NorthShore better access to patients in the western suburbs.
Representatives for NorthShore and Edward Elmhurst didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
NorthShore has looked for opportunities to expand and complement its healthcare network since plans to merge with Advocate Health Care fell through in 2017. Since then, NorthShore has added Arlington Heights-based Northwest Community Healthcare and Swedish Hospital in the Ravenswood neighborhood for a total of six Chicago-area hospitals.
“The Chicago market has gone from one of the least consolidated markets in the country to a moderately consolidated market,” says Jordan Shields, managing director at Chicago-based investment banking firm Juniper Advisory. “Both NorthShore and Edward Elmhurst would benefit by having additional scale, but neither has strategic growth opportunities given that smaller standalone independents have now mostly joined Northwestern, Advocate and Amita.”
Independent hospitals and smaller chains were under pressure to address rising expenses and dwindling inpatient volumes even before the COVID-19 pandemic drove up costs and caused some patients to postpone elective procedures.
Before COVID-19 started spreading, Edward Elmhurst shifted work from doctors to nurse practitioners and physician assistants at certain immediate care sites. The health system said at the time that “patients have made it very clear that they want less costly care and convenient access for lower-acuity issues.”
Edward Elmhurst Health, which comprises Edward Hospital, Elmhurst Hospital and Linden Oaks Behavioral Health, has more than 50 outpatient locations and 7,700 employees. In 2018 it reportedly was talks to get acquired by Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Sanford Health.
Meanwhile, six-hospital NorthShore’s revenue rose 9% last year to $2.4 billion as expenses rose 14 percent to $2.4 billion. The health system posted an operating loss of $18 million, compared with a $34 million loss the year prior.