New Jersey's Cooper University Health Care, Cape Regional Health System unveil $2.2B merger

Two South Jersey hospitals have signed a letter of intent to merge into a system of more than 10,000 employees and over $2.2 billion in annual revenues.

Camden, New Jersey-based Cooper University Health Care and Cape May Court House, New Jersey-based Cape Regional Health System said in a Wednesday announcement they’ll be working toward a definitive merger agreement in March and then regulatory approvals that “could take until the first quarter of 2024.”

Should the agreement come to pass, the joined system would comprise 900 licensed beds across the organizations’ two flagship hospitals, six urgent care centers and over 130 ambulatory locations across eight counties.

“As it becomes more and more challenging for smaller health systems to operate independently, merging with Cooper made the most sense as we share the same commitment to the communities we serve and to providing the highest quality care to our patients,” Garry Gilbert, chairman of Cape Regional Health System’s board of trustees, said in the announcement.

Cooper is the major academic health system of southern New Jersey and the larger of the two systems. Its Cooper University Hospital is the only Level I trauma center in South Jersey as well as the busiest trauma center in the greater Philadelphia region. It also includes the MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper, the Delaware Valley’s only Level II pediatric trauma center, and over 100 outpatient offices spanning southeast Pennsylvania to the Jersey Shore.

Cooper employs more than 8,500 people, including over 800 physicians. The system says it sees more than $2 billion in revenue and 1.9 million patient visits annually.

Cape Regional, meanwhile, is an integrated healthcare delivery system spread across the state’s Cape May County. Its flagship Cape Regional Medical Center is joined by three urgent care facilities and an affiliated multispecialty physician group. It employs nearly 1,500 people.

Executives from the organization said the deal would bolster care across South Jersey and Cape May County in particular, with Cooper co-CEO Anthony Mazzarelli, M.D., calling out opportunities to expanding his organization’s advanced cancer and specialty care further along the shore.

Joanne Carrocino, president and CEO of Cape Regional Health System, also highlighted prior collaborations between the systems.

“Cape Regional and Cooper have had a strong working relationship for many years as Cooper has staffed our Intensive Care Unit with fellowship-trained Intensivist physicians as well as provided tele-ICU, tele-stroke, and tele-neurology services that have truly enhanced the quality of care for our community,” she said in the announcement.

Regulators have proven to be scrupulous when reviewing hospital deals in the Garden State.

Earlier this year, RWJBarnabas Health and Saint Peter’s Healthcare System threw in the towel after the North Jersey systems’ merger deal was blocked by the Federal Trade Commission. That block came months after Hackensack Meridian Health and Englewood Health’s proposed deal similarly succumbed to regulator resistance.