Mercy Health System of Maine in Portland and Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems in Brewer have signed a definitive affiliation agreement for Mercy to become part of EMHS, the organizations announced Monday in a news release.

The organizations had signed a non-binding letter of intent on Dec. 7. The merger will include VNA Home Health & Hospice, a service unit of Mercy.

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“Signing the definitive agreement is another significant step toward fulfilling our bright future as a member of EMHS,” said Eileen Skinner, president and CEO of Mercy Health System of Maine.

With a definitive agreement signed, Mercy and EMHS will seek all necessary regulatory approvals, including a state certificate of need, federal antitrust clearance and the Vatican’s blessing. The process is expected to take six to nine months.

“We are excited to be Mercy’s choice as a strong, committed partner for the long term,” said Michelle Hood, president and CEO of EMHS. “Adding Mercy to our system helps us continue our innovative work providing the needed infrastructure and system processes to improve the health status of the people of Maine.”

The definitive agreement spells out the actions both health systems will take for Mercy to become an EMHS member. A local board will continue to oversee Mercy’s operations according to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.

During this approval process, representatives of both organizations will work together on identifying the best methods for integrating Mercy into EMHS.