OLEAN, N.Y. — Upper Allegheny Health System (UAHS) has signed a letter of intent to affiliate with the Kaleida Health system, a move that is designed to strengthen and enhance healthcare in Southwestern New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania.

Under terms of the proposal, Kaleida Health will become the parent organization of UAHS. UAHS and its member hospitals, Bradford Regional Medical Center (BRMC) and Olean General Hospital (OGH), will become part of Kaleida Health while remaining separate legal entities with separate boards of directors.

Brenda McGee, Chair of the UAHS Board of Directors, said good stewardship indicates that an alignment with a larger health system is an appropriate and intelligent approach for rural hospitals to preserve and enhance their missions.

“Approximately sixty five percent of the nation’s hospitals are currently in multi-hospital system arrangements,” said McGee. “Virtually every community hospital in Southwestern New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania is now affiliated with a major urban tertiary medical center. The affiliation with Kaleida Health is a strategic and proactive initiative that continues our efforts to secure and enhance healthcare for the Bradford and Olean communities well into the future. The retention of a separate UAHS Board of Directors will assure that our hospitals remain responsive to local healthcare needs.”

The letter of intent proposes no immediate changes at either hospital, including staffing. BRMC and OGH will continue to provide existing inpatient, outpatient, emergency, diagnostic and therapeutic services. Employees of BRMC and OGH will remain employees of their respective organizations under this affiliation. Timothy Finan will remain President & CEO of Upper Allegheny and its member hospitals. The names Upper Allegheny Health System, Bradford Regional Medical Center and Olean General Hospital will remain.

Ultimate responsibility for UAHS and its member hospitals will reside with the Kaleida Health board of directors. Members of the UAHS, BRMC and OGH boards of directors will serve on the Kaleida Health board of directors and various committees of the Kaleida Health board. The UAHS, BRMC and OGH boards of directors will retain local responsibility for Bradford Regional Medical Center and Olean General Hospital.

The opportunity to partner with Kaleida Health and its programs at places like the Gates Vascular Institute, Buffalo General Medical Center and Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo is to coordinate care so patients in the region will have access to appropriate care locally and be seamlessly transitioned to tertiary network care platforms when needed.

Bradford Regional Medical Center and Olean General Hospital will also have greater coordination of care and enhanced partnerships with Erie County Medical Center’s (a partner of Kaleida Health) centers of excellence in behavioral health and transplantation, along with adult level one trauma care.

“This is a tremendous honor and opportunity to build on the successful partnership between Kaleida Health and Upper Allegheny Health System,” said Jody Lomeo, president and CEO of Kaleida Health. “Together, we can continue to improve the health and wellness of the rural communities across the Southern Tier and Northwestern Pennsylvania. Just as important, we can collaborate and enhance care locally, while improving access to Kaleida Health’s award winning programs and services. This is another great win for the community.”

Lomeo added that the affiliation with Kaleida Health will allow for opportunities in joint physician recruitment, telemedicine, clinical education, information technology enhancement and supply chain.

“The affiliation will improve access to Kaleida Health’s extensive clinical capabilities and vast array of services at facilities such as Buffalo General Medical Center, Gates Vascular Institute and Women and Children’s Hospital, and enable us to introduce new and expanded programs and services to the Bradford and Olean communities in response to local healthcare needs,” said Timothy J. Finan, president and CEO of Upper Allegheny Health System, Bradford Regional Medical Center and Olean General Hospital.

Finan said the UAHS’ rural platform will assist Kaleida Health with the management of its healthcare partnerships located throughout Southwestern New York.

“As a result of the affiliation both BRMC and OGH will be better positioned to attract and retain high quality physicians and clinical staff and provide a more stable employment outlook. Under terms of the Letter of Intent, Kaleida Health will provide the funding and necessary infrastructure for several new physicians it will recruit for the Bradford and Olean communities,” Finan said.

The proposal positions UAHS and Kaleida Health as partners to assure an optimal response to the challenges of the current healthcare environment and to preserve and enhance healthcare throughout the greater Bradford and Olean region.

In 2013, Kaleida Health and OGH jointly established an interventional cardiac catheterization laboratory in Olean. Also in 2013, Kaleida Health and BRMC jointly established a home care agency, the VNA of Northwestern Pennsylvania in Bradford.

While both OGH and BRMC have had several consecutive years of positive operating margins, the outlook for rural hospitals everywhere is a matter of significant concern. In the past year alone, more rural hospitals have closed across the nation than in the prior 15 years combined. The affiliation of UAHS with Kaleida Health will help to assure the stability and enhancement of both BRMC and OGH in a very challenging environment.

The affiliation of UAHS with Kaleida Health will help BRMC and OGH withstand the very significant financial pressures of the healthcare industry that are the result of healthcare reform and diminished levels of reimbursement being experienced by hospitals everywhere.

Both the Olean General Hospital Foundation and Bradford Hospital Foundation will remain independent foundations.