The parent companies of Hartford’s St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center and Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford Springs are exploring an affiliation, the latest in a series of possible hospital mergers and alliances in the state.

According to a statement released by the two organizations, the proposed affiliation would “help maintain an inpatient hospital presence in north central Connecticut, expand clinical services, enhance physician retention and recruitment, and assist in the implementation of key capital projects.”

An affiliation would represent St. Francis’ first formal alliance with another hospital and could improve the viability of Johnson Memorial, which emerged from bankruptcy last year. Johnson Memorial had the lowest average five-year margin of any hospital in Connecticut in the 2005 through 2009 fiscal years, at -6.79 percent, according to the state Office of Health Care Access.

According to the statement, St. Francis will work on a capital plan with Johnson Memorial’s parent company, Johnson Memorial Medical Center, with the help of the health care investment banking firm Cain Brothers. Affiliation discussions will also look at potentially integrating Johnson Memorial’s hospital-employed physician organization with the St. Francis Medical Group.

St. Francis Care, the parent company of St. Francis, also includes The Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital. Johnson Memorial Medical Center also includes the nursing home Evergreen Health Care Center, and Home & Community Health Services, a home health and hospice agency.

The affiliation talks are the latest in a series of moves that are reshaping the state’s hospital landscape. Yale-New Haven Hospital is in merger talks with The Hospital of St. Raphael that could create a single, two-campus hospital in New Haven. St. Mary’s Health System, the parent of St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, recently filed an application for state approval of a joint venture with a private Texas company.

Earlier this year, Hartford HealthCare, the parent of Hartford Hospital, MidState Medical Center in Meriden, and Windham Hospital, added the parent company of The Hospital of Central Connecticut to its network. Last fall, Danbury and New Milford hospitals affiliated, forming the Western Connecticut Healthcare system.

Johnson Memorial has explored relationships with other hospital companies before. Eastern Connecticut Health Network, the parent company of Manchester Memorial and Rockville General hospitals, explored buying the hospital but the deal fell apart two years ago.

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Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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