CHICAGO — The boards of two Illinois-based systems — Cadence Health and Northwestern Memorial HealthCare — have agreed to merge.

The combined system would form an integrated academic healthcare delivery system with more than 60 sites in Chicago and its suburbs, including four hospitals, more than 4,000 physicians, and 17,600 employees, according to a joint statement Thursday.

State and federal regulatory approval is needed. The systems said they hoped to close the deal in the fall. The two did not announce how the debt of each nonprofit system would be treated once the systems merge.

"Together, we are better positioned to provide care that is safer, more effective, and better coordinated that utilizes the latest breakthrough treatments and is accessible closer to where our patients live and work," NMHC’s president and chief executive officer Dean Harrison said in the statement.

NMHC is the parent of Northwestern Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago, Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital in Lake Forest far north of Chicago, and Northwestern Medical Group. The system generated $1.7 billion of revenue in its last fiscal year, before it acquired the medical group.

Cadence Health was formed in 2011 when Central DuPage Hospital in the far west Chicago suburb of Winfield merged with Delnor Hospital located far west of Chicago in Geneva. Cadence generated revenue of $1.13 billion in its last fiscal year.

The systems will operate under the Northwestern name and Harrison will serve as CEO with Mike Vivoda, the current president and CEO of Cadence Health, as regional president.

Both systems carry ratings in the double-A category.

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