Rush Health Systems to join Ochsner Health
Merger will improve quality and expand access to local, highly specialized care for patients in Mississippi and Alabama, company officials say
MERIDIAN – Today, Rush Health Systems (Rush) and Ochsner Health (Ochsner) announced the signing of a shared mission agreement for Rush to merge with Ochsner, expected to be finalized in mid-2022.
The agreement, officials said, builds upon the existing strategic partnership agreement between the two health systems announced in 2019.
Working together, Ochsner and Rush hope to expand access to patients in east Mississippi and west Alabama, including high-quality, affordable and innovative care and more clinical specialties close to home.
“We have recently worked with Ochsner on several initiatives, including the implementation of Epic, a best-in-class electronic medical records system, at our hospitals and clinics. Today’s news means that we are taking the next step in our partnership,” said Larkin Kennedy, president and CEO, Rush Health Systems. “We are excited to join Ochsner Health and work with them to continue to improve quality and decrease costs while enhancing access to highly specialized care closer to home.”
The depth and breadth of specialized care for which Ochsner is nationally recognized will now be available to local communities, Kennedy said.
As part of Ochsner, Rush will be able to grow existing programs and offer new services for the patients it serves across the region. Employees of Rush Health Systems will also see an increase in minimum wage to $12 per hour once the merger is complete in mid-2022, positively impacting more than 400 employees and representing an investment of at least $1.5 million in the people who play vital roles within the health system, he said.
“We have tremendous respect for Rush Health Systems and the work they have done to advance care in Mississippi. The announcement today is a natural progression of our existing partnership with Rush, and we are excited to work with them to expand services while improving the health and wellness of people in the communities Rush serves,” said Warner Thomas, president and CEO, Ochsner Health. “We look forward to building on the great work of Rush to improve access to high-quality, cost-effective and innovative care.”
As Rush Health Systems joins Ochsner, the health system will focus on the following to benefit patients, including:
• Expanded access to specialty and sub-specialty services so that more patients can receive the care they need closer to home, including cardiology and cardiovascular surgery, neurology and highly specialized stroke care, women’s services, cancer treatment and surgical oncology.
• Innovation in healthcare delivery through Ochsner’s expanded technological and digital capabilities, including expansions in telehealth, digital monitoring and clinical improvements guided by artificial intelligence.
• Access to Ochsner’s robust clinical research network, one of the largest in the Gulf South, so Rush patients will be able to participate in groundbreaking, novel therapies, including the latest in cancer treatment, close to home.
• More efficient, affordable care through the sharing of best practices and resources. Economies of scale will allow Ochsner to find efficiencies throughout the system, and then invest more in programs and resources locally.
“I’m extremely proud of the health system Rush has become since its founding more than 100 years ago, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for our patients, our people and our communities as we become Ochsner Rush Health,” said Wallace Strickland, Rush Health Systems Board chairman and former president and CEO. “I am confident we’ll be able to do even more for the people of east Mississippi and west Alabama with the resources of a larger system such as Ochsner Health.”
“We are excited to take this step forward with Rush Health Systems as they join Ochsner Health. We already share similar values and a commitment to the people of the communities we serve,” said Robert Hart, MD, chief medical officer, Ochsner Health. “For decades, our organizations have benefitted from a strong relationship, dating back to when Dr. Leslie V. Rush, Sr. hosted Dr. Alton Ochsner on several occasions in the early 1970s as a guest speaker for special events. We are thrilled that our relationship has continued to evolve to benefit our patients.”
Rush Health Systems will become Ochsner Rush Health when the merger is complete in mid-2022, following regulatory approvals, company officials said. The partnership will be governed by a board comprised of Rush community members, physicians and representatives from Ochsner Health. Rush medical staff will continue to be comprised of employed and independent physicians. All medical staff will retain existing privileges after the effective merger date. Patients may continue to use existing insurance at all facilities.
“The challenges we currently face as healthcare providers are unprecedented. Through the recent COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen the benefits of working together. There is no doubt the future of healthcare is about collaboration,” said Fred Duggan, MD, chief medical officer, Rush Health Systems. “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.”
About Rush Health Systems
Rush Health Systems is the largest, most diverse healthcare system in East Mississippi and West Alabama. With a 106-year legacy of medical innovation, quality care and service to others, Rush Health Systems is comprised of seven hospitals and more than 30 clinics, with 250 staff and contracted physicians and 95 advanced practice providers. Rush is the largest non-governmental employer in the region. Rush Health Systems includes Rush Foundation Hospital in Meridian; The Specialty Hospital of Meridian; Medical Foundation Inc., Laird Hospital, Union; H.C. Watkins Hospital, Quitman; Scott Regional Hospital, Morton; John C. Stennis Memorial Hospital, DeKalb, and Choctaw General Hospital in Butler, Alabama. For more information, please visit www.rushhealthsystems.org and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
About Ochsner Health
Ochsner Health is a system that delivers health to the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and the Gulf South with a mission to Serve, Heal, Lead, Educate and Innovate. Ochsner Health is a not-for-profit committed to giving back to the communities it serves through preventative screenings, health and wellness resources and partnerships with innovative organizations that share our vision. Ochsner Health healed more than 900,000 people from across the globe in 2020, providing the latest medical breakthroughs and therapies, including digital medicine for chronic conditions and telehealth specialty services. Ochsner Health is a national leader, named the top hospital in Louisiana and a top children’s hospital by U.S. News & World Report. As Louisiana’s leading healthcare educator, Ochsner Health and its partners educate thousands of healthcare professionals annually. Ochsner Health is innovating healthcare by investing in new technologies and research to make world-class care more accessible, affordable, convenient and effective. Ochsner's team of more than 32,000 employees and 4,500 providers are working to reinvent the future of health and wellness in the region. To learn more about Ochsner Health, please visit www.ochsner.org.