warner thomas

Anne Snabes / The Meridian Star

Warner Thomas, president and CEO of Ochsner Health, speaks about the merger between Ochsner and Rush Health Systems at a Thursday press conference.

Rush Health Systems announced on Thursday that it will merge with Louisiana health system Ochsner Health. The merger is expected to be finalized in mid-2022, according to a press release.

“This move allows us to expand our access to high-quality health care in the communities we serve for generations to come,” said Larkin Kennedy, CEO of Rush Health Systems, at a press conference.

Rush and Ochsner, which are both non-profits, announced on Thursday the signing of a shared mission agreement. Rush will be re-named Ochsner Rush Health when the merger is complete, following regulatory approvals, according to the press release.

Numerous hospitals in Louisiana and Mississippi are either owned by or affiliated with Ochsner Health. The health system’s flagship hospital is Ochsner Medical Center in Jefferson, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans.

Warner Thomas, the president and CEO of Ochsner Health, said in every partnership Ochsner has formed with other health entities, Ochsner has grown the workforce.

“And we’ve done that through expansion of services,” he said. “Now, there could be some jobs that change over time, but I’ll think you’ll see, over time, this will expand the workforce, not shrink the workforce, in Meridian.”

The merger will expand access to specialized care for patients in Mississippi and Alabama. There are some medical sub-specialities that Rush does not currently offer, like pediatric cardiology, and the merger will allow Rush patients to see Ochsner physicians who specialize in these fields. The patients will be able to meet with Ochsner physicians through a combination of telehealth and in-person care, Kennedy said.

Rush patients will also have access to Ochsner’s clinical research network, so they will be able to participate in novel therapies like new cancer treatments.

The minimum wage for Rush employees will increase to $12 per hour once the merger is complete, according to the press release.

The partnership between Ochsner and Rush will be governed by a board comprised of Rush community members, physicians and representatives of Ochsner Health, according to the press release. Rush medical staff will continue to be comprised of employed and independent physicians.

“Employed physicians from both organizations along with independent, community physicians will have the opportunity to increase clinical collaboration, implement advanced, patient-centered technology and expand services in the region,” said Dr. Fred Duggan, chief medical officer of Rush Health Systems, in the release.

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