WILLMAR -- Affiliated Community Medical Centers and Allina Medical Clinic are considering a merger of their two clinics in Litchfield.
A letter of intent and a confidentiality agreement have been signed, but the deal has not yet been finalized.
If it goes through, the Litchfield clinic would become part of Affiliated's regional multi-specialty health system.
Affiliated and Allina have been talking informally for the past four or five years about the merger, but in recent months the discussion became much more serious. The two organizations announced their intentions publicly on Wednesday.
"It's a dynamic industry and we have to keep up with it," said Terry Tone, administrator of Affiliated. "It's all about how we can be more efficient."
Litchfield has long had two medical clinics; the buildings are even across the street from each other.
The market isn't quite large enough, however, to successfully support both of them, Tone said. "In a small community, how much sense does it make?"
Officials for Affiliated and Allina said a merger would help reduce duplication and allow for more comprehensive care for patients in the Litchfield area.
"We can do a lot more things together than apart," Tone said.
Recruitment of doctors and other health care professionals is one of the issues a merger could help address, he said.
Officials for the two organizations said that joining forces also would give them the opportunity to strengthen and enhance local health care services and better ensure that primary and specialty care will remain available in Litchfield.
Improved coordination is a potential benefit as well, said Thomas Holets, president of the Allina Medical Clinic.
"In addition to providing comprehensive services locally, the merger would also allow for better coordination of health care services for the patients," he said in a written statement. "We believe that this model will create a more sustainable future for the practitioners and staff who have worked so hard to deliver excellent care and service to the community."
It also would coincide with a multimillion-dollar expansion at Meeker Memorial Hospital that will be completed this summer.
Details of the merger are still being worked out. An agreement could be finalized by the end of March, Tone said.
Affiliated Community Medical Centers is a multi-specialty health network of 11 medical clinics in west central and southwest Minnesota, with more than 150 physicians and mid-level providers in 30 specialty areas. Its clinic in Litchfield, which underwent an expansion in 2005, is staffed with five physicians, a nurse practitioner and a physician assistant.
Allina Medical Clinic is a nonprofit system of 46 clinics in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Its Litchfield clinic is staffed by five doctors and two nurse practitioners, as well as visiting specialists from other Allina clinics. The clinic system is part of Allina Hospitals and Clinics, which owns and operates 11 hospitals, more than 90 clinics and specialty care centers, and specialty medical services ranging from hospice care to pharmacies and emergency medical transportation.