New Orleans health system pushes further into Mississippi. Merger with Meridian-based hospital group announced.

Published 6:52 am Friday, June 18, 2021

A large New Orleans-based health system with hospitals in Louisiana and Mississippi plans a merger that will deepen its presence in Mississippi.

Ochsner Health and Rush Health Systems said in a news release Thursday that officials expect a proposed merger to become final in mid-2022 pending regulatory approval.

Ochsner has 40 owned, managed and affiliated hospitals and specialty hospitals in Louisiana and Mississippi, plus more than 100 health and urgent care centers.

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Rush, based in Meridian, Mississippi, owns six hospitals in east Mississippi and one in west Alabama, along with more than 30 clinics. All but one Rush’s hospitals are small and rural.

Officials say more than 400 Rush employees making $7.25 an hour will earn Ochsner’s $12 minimum wage after the merger.
The two systems have had a strategic partnership since 2019.

“We are excited to join Ochsner Health and work with them to continue to improve quality and decrease costs while enhancing access to highly specialized care closer to home,” said Rush President and CEO Larkin Kennedy.

“We have tremendous respect for Rush Health Systems and the work they have done to advance care in Mississippi. The announcement today is a natural progression of our existing partnership with Rush,” said Warner Thomas, Ochsner’s president and CEO.

Officials said Rush, to be known as Ochsner Rush Health after the merger, will expand access to specialty and sub-specialty services. This will let more patients get cardiovascular surgery, specialized stroke care, cancer treatment and other care closer to home, the statement said.

More telehealth and digital monitoring also will be available, and patients will be able to join Ochsner’s clinical trials.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center has said in the past that it was concerned that patients might be diverted out of state by competition from Louisiana and Tennessee-based hospitals.

UMMC declined to comment about the proposed Ochsner-Rush merger.