Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Lahey Health have enlisted another hospital in their campaign to create a stronger rival to Partners HealthCare, the market leader.
Anna Jaques Hospital of Newburyport said Monday that it plans to join the Beth Israel Deaconess-Lahey merger, which was announced in January after years of on-again, off-again talks. Last month, New England Baptist Hospital voted to participate in the deal, and Mount Auburn Hospital said it was considering joining, as well.
Beth Israel Deaconess and Lahey executives declined to say whether they are in discussions with any other hospitals. They say the deal is a way to build a high-quality health system across Eastern Massachusetts that provides comprehensive services at lower costs than at competitors, particularly Partners.
Eastern Massachusetts’ other large health system is Steward Health Care, which runs nine hospitals.
“We have Steward, we have this proposed merger, and we have Partners,” said John Freedman, a Newton health care consultant. “It looks like you have three organizations that would pretty much control all of metropolitan Boston and Eastern Massachusetts, with Partners still being the gorilla and these other two still trying to be viable competitors.”
Partners, created through the 1994 merger of Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals, is the largest and highest-priced network of doctors and hospitals in Massachusetts.
With more than $12 billion in annual revenue, Partners would remain the state’s largest health system, even if Beth Israel Deaconess and Lahey — which each own four hospitals — come together with the Baptist, Anna Jaques, and Mount Auburn.
Anna Jaques, with 123 beds and about 1,200 employees, has had a clinical affiliation with Beth Israel Deaconess since 2010. Doctors from the Boston medical center have helped treat patients in Newburyport in areas including cancer, thoracic surgery, and pregnancy care. Given that partnership, Anna Jaques executives said, it made sense for the Newburyport institution to join the new combination.
“It would further expand and enhance clinical services in our region,” Anna Jaques chief executive Mark L. Goldstein said in a statement. “After years of working collaboratively with BIDMC, we look forward to exploring this next step in the evolution of our relationship.”
Mount Auburn Hospital, of Cambridge, is still debating whether to join the transaction. “We are evaluating it seriously,” said Michael O’Connell, vice president of planning and marketing.
The hospitals still must finalize their merger plans and seek state and federal regulators’ approval. A review could take several months, or longer.
Dr. Kevin Tabb, Beth Israel Deaconess CEO, is slated to run the new system.