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Monday, May 27, 2024

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Cape Regional and Cooper to Merge

Cape Regional Medical Center

By Vince Conti

CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – Officials at Cooper University Health Care and Cape Regional Health System have announced an intent to merge.
Provided the merger gains approval from healthcare regulators, the partnership will provide expanded access to specialty health care services to residents and visitors in Cape May County, according to both parties.
Cape Regional Health System operates the county’s only acute care hospital and has struggled to provide a full range of services as an independent system. Cape Regional serves a unique county where the population expands from under 100,000 to over 1 million on a seasonal basis.
The relationship with Cooper is not new for Cape Regional. For several years Cooper has staffed Cape Regional’s Intensive Care Unit with fellowship trained physicians. Cooper has also “provided tele-ICU, tele-stroke, and tele-neurology services that have truly enhanced the quality of care for our community,” said Joanne Carrocino, president and CEO of Cape Regional Health System.
Cooper, based in Camden, is South Jersey’s only academic health system and Level I trauma center. The campus of Cooper Health Services is home to Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.
Cooper brings to the partnership considerable size and resources with $2 billion in revenue. Its 8,900 employees include 1,600 nurses and more than 850 employed physicians and 450 advanced practice providers. Annually nearly 2 million patients are served at Cooper’s 635-bed flagship hospital., outpatient surgery center, three urgent care centers, and more than 105 ambulatory offices. Cooper is rated in the top 5% of all short-term acute care hospitals based on Healthcare Patient Safety Excellence Awards.
The smaller Cape Regional Health System includes the hospital center in Court House, three urgent care facilities and over 60 primary care providers and specialists in its Cape Regional Physicians Association. Cape Regional is the focal point of health care delivery in Cape May County with numerous centers and freestanding outpatient facilities throughout the county.
Dr. Anthony Mazzarelli, co-CEO of Cooper, praised the merger, saying, “By expanding our current working relationship with the Cape Regional team, we will be able to bring additional advanced cancer and specialty health care services to local residents close to where they live.”
Middle Township Mayor Timothy Donohue lauded the announcement calling the proposed merger “great news for Middle Township and all of Cape May County.”
“This partnership will create a high-quality Medical Center with expanded services and ensure the long-term, financial viability of our hospital for decades to come,” Donohue said.
The union of Cooper and Cape Regional comes as challenges increase for smaller health systems. Recently the Salem Medical Center agreed to join the Inspira Health Network. The much smaller Salem center operates a 260-bed hospital while Inspira operates three hospitals and a variety of other health care facilities. Currently the deal awaits final state regulatory approval.
 “As it becomes more and more challenging for smaller health systems to operate independently, merging with Cooper made the most sense,” said Garry Gilbert, Chairman, Cape Regional Health System Board of Trustees.
Economies of scale have taken on new importance since the pandemic which reduced the volume of patients seeking care and increased pandemic-related costs. A study for the American Hospital Association lists many of the pressures on smaller healthcare systems making mergers a solution for preserving and enhancing patient access to care.
The announcement of an intent to merge is the start of a lengthy process which is expected to result in a Definitive Agreement in March 2023. What will follow is a regulatory approval process that could take a year and extend to the first quarter of 2024.

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