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Article updated: 7/19/2012 8:37 AM

Sherman Health narrows field in search for a partner

By Tara García Mathewson

Sherman Health has been looking into partnership opportunities with area health care systems since 2011, recently narrowing a field of five potential partners to two.

According to Tonya Lucchetti-Hudson, director of marketing and public relations, Advocate Health Care and Cadence Health offered the best fit for Sherman's future based on their responses to a recent request for proposals.

Lucchetti-Hudson said federal health care reform encourages consolidation, and while Sherman so far has functioned successfully on its own, it is considering partnership opportunities to remain viable while providing quality care at a reasonable cost.

"Right now we are in a position of choice and feel this is the right time to consider becoming part of something larger," Lucchetti-Hudson said.

Advocate Health Care is a faith-based system out of Oak Brook and calls itself the largest integrated health care system in the state with 10 hospitals and two children's hospitals in operation.

Cadence Health formed from the March 2011 merger between Delnor Health System in Geneva and Central DuPage Health System in Winfield.

A spokeswoman for Cadence said the system is committed to exploring ways to enhance the "depth, breadth and affordability of the region's health care," but could not give more detail about a potential merger with Sherman Health.

Lucchetti-Hudson pointed to the potential for meeting best practices, acquiring better technology, increasing physician alignment and expanding services as reasons to consider a partnership. The form of the partnership itself is still up for discussion with a full asset merger on the table along with a loose affiliation.

The Sherman Health board will review recommendations based on further meetings with Advocate and Cadence representatives in the fall, but a final decision is not expected until next spring.

Sherman Health's criteria for its future includes a continued voice in hospital governance, long-term access to capital, information technology capabilities and physician collaboration efforts.

Plenty could change in Sherman's next phase, which comes on the heels of demolition to its former Center Street campus -- slated to continue through the summer.

"What won't change is the personalized, compassionate care that has been our hallmark over our 124-year history in this community," Lucchetti-Hudson said.

Representatives of Advocate Health Care could not be reached to comment on their plans for collaborating with Sherman.

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