CHICAGO — Madison-based University of Wisconsin Health and Illinois-based SwedishAmerican Health System announced plans to merge.

SwedishAmerican operates two hospitals and a cancer center in the Rockford, Ill. Area. If the deal receives regulatory approval, it would mark the UW Health's first acquisition.

The merger gives the university's system a broader patient base and provides better access to the university health system's services for SwedishAmerican's patients. It currently operates 15 hospitals in eastern Wisconsin. The two have been affiliated since 2010.

"This merger is a logical progression of our successful affiliation of the past four years," said SwedishAmerican president Bill Gorski. "The Rockford region, as well as people throughout northern Illinois, will have greater access to the breakthrough research, advanced medical specialties and community health initiatives that earn UW Health national recognition."

Gorski will remain CEO of SwedishAmerican, reporting to the SwedishAmerican Board and to the Board of University Health Care Inc., the not-for-profit organization that facilitates relationships with regional hospitals for UW Health.

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