Catholic Health Initiatives, which owns St. Anthony Hospital, has announced a partial merger with PeaceHealth.

Actually, company leaders won’t label the new relationship as a “merger” or “acquisition,” instead calling it a partnership.

The two companies signed a non-binding letter of intent to create a new health care system that combines 16 acute care hospitals in Oregon, Washington and Alaska. The seven CHI hospitals include St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton, Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg and five hospitals in Washington’s Puget Sound region. The non-profit CHI, based in Colorado, has about 100 other hospitals and residential living facilities that aren’t part of the deal.

The not-for-profit PeaceHealth brings four Oregon medical centers, four Washington hospitals and an Alaska hospital into the mix.

The letter of intent is the first step in a lengthy integration process. The integration will happen over time, finishing sometime before late June of 2013.

“Catholic Health Initiatives and PeaceHealth share common cultures and values,” said CHI president Kevin E. Lofton, in a prepared statement. “We see this as a natural evolution — a perfect way to share economies of skill and scale, improve health services and reinforce our common mission to create and nurture healthier communities.

Kevin Lamb, manager of marketing and communications for PeaceHealth, concurred.

“We’re a good fit for each other,” Lamb said. “We have similar missions and core values — we have good chemistry.”

The new organization would encompass almost 26,000 employees and 950 doctors and is expected to have annual revenues of almost $4 billion, according to the statement.

Lamb said staffing levels should remain the same at St. Anthony and the other 15 hospitals into the foreseeable future.

Jim Schlenker, interim CEO at St. Anthony, said the hospital’s mission won’t change.

“We remain committed to improving the health of individuals in Pendleton and surrounding communities today and in the future,” Schlenker said.

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Contact Kathy Aney at kaney@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0810.

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