UPDATE: Baptist/St. Mary's Officially Announce Merger

Knoxville (WVLT) - It's a new day for the financially strapped Baptist Hospital System. The 4th largest hospital in the area just announced a merge with Saint Mary's Hospital in Knoxville.

Volunteer TV's Lauren Davis attended the announcement Thursday.

It means more jobs, better patient care and increase in services, but it finally answers that question - Is Baptist going to close?

Baptist Hospital and Saint Mary's will join forces and become one of the largest hospital systems in East Tennessee.

"Take the 3rd and 4th largest and bring them together for a strong system," said David Ranking, Baptist's board chairman.

Saint Mary's CEO Debra London and Baptist Board Chairman David Rankin put the pen to the paper Thursday to affirm their intent to merge.

"It's an exciting day gives us the opportunity to bring 2 faith based organizations together," London said.

No layoffs are planned, and even better this means more jobs for health care professionals in the Knoxville area.

"There is a shortage in nurses, so this gives us the opportunity to add more nurses and health care providers," London said.

The consolidation also means the two hospitals can eliminate duplication of services and save money, about 30 to 60 million dollars annually.

"We will increase in services MRI, scanners, CT, physicians equipment and robotic surgery," Rankin said.

Better services for the patients.

"Go forward with progress and great health care," Rankin said.

And for the community.

Rankin says Baptist will not lay off any more employees. Now the merge must be approved through the federal regulatory process, which should be complete by the end of the year. Rankin expects both companies to start operating together in January 2008.

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