New London’s Lawrence & Memorial Hospital announced Wednesday that it is exploring a possible merger or affiliation with The Westerly Hospital of Rhode Island, becoming the latest in a series of hospitals to consider joining forces.

The two hospitals have signed an exclusive, nonbinding letter of intent to explore a possible alliance, allowing them to start a due diligence process to examine the options.

According to a statement from the hospitals, it will take at least four months to determine whether some form of alliance is in their best interests. Any plan to move forward would require regulatory approval.

You can read more about the talks and the two hospitals by The Day’s Judy Benson.

For those keeping score, the other hospitals currently exploring or seeking approval for affiliations or mergers include: Yale-New Haven Hospital and The Hospital of St. Raphael, which are exploring a merger that would create one hospital with two campuses in New Haven; St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center and Johnson Memorial Hospital, which are in talks over an affiliation; and Waterbury Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital, which are planning to form a joint venture with a private Texas firm that would result in the construction of a single, combined hospital in Waterbury. Each of those moves would require approval from regulators.

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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