Big news: on December 16, RWJBarnabas Health and St. Peter's Healthcare System announced that they had signed a letter of intent to become "strategic partners" going forward. According to a letter to employees by Saint Peter's President and CEO Leslie Hirsch, the specific structure of the resulting organization is presently undetermined, pending a more detailed agreement to be reached in the coming months.
The decision is in line with recent announcements and moves by Saint Peter's management to make the organization a more attractive takeover target. Never referred to as an outright acquisition of the Catholic Saint Peter's by the independent RWJBarnabas, the structure of the deal will allow the Saint Peter's part of the organization to remain in some respect affiliated to the church. A "Frequently Asked Questions" document distributed with the announcement states that the status of Saint Peter's facilities will remain unchanged for the foreseeable future, and that the partnership will enhance the outpatient services offered by Saint Peter's University Hospital. However, posing itself the question whether the hospital might merge in the future with nearby Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, it doesn't quite issue a flat denial. The FAQ also hints, by avoiding direct statements to the contrary, that salaries and benefits, including retirement plans, are subject to change once the merger is finalized. However, it specifically states that the system "remain[s] committed to funding Saint Peter’s frozen defined benefit pension plan." (We can't help but note that retaining the church affiliation allows Saint Peter's to preserve the pension's financially advantageous "church plan" status.)
Read the Hirsch letter, the FAQ, and an article on the announcement in Modern Healthcare. If we hear of more developments we'll pass them along.