Opelousas General Health System plans to purchase the for-profit Doctors' Hospital of Opelousas by the end of the year or in early 2009. The two longtime competitors have signed a non-binding letter of intent, calling the negotiations "positive and promising."

OGHS is a not-for-profit community hospital whose board of trustees has long been interested in acquiring Doctors', and both entities say the merger is in the best interest of the community. "DHO and OGHS have explored avenues by which both hospitals could work together to improve access to high quality, efficient and affordable health care to the community," says Doctors' CEO Phil YOung. "In an effort to bring about better collaboration between the two hospitals, OGHS has offered to acquire Doctors' Hospital, and we believe this consolidation will benefit the community in ways we could not by remaining separate."

Gerald Fornoff, OGHS' president and CEO, says both parties are working to ensure a smooth transition. "Obviously both OGHS and DHO will undertake due diligence prior to determining a definitive asset purchase agreement," he says, noting that the agreement will outline specific details including assets and liabilities, medical staff and employee transition issues.

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