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BATAVIA – United Memorial Medical Center on Thursday announced it is merging with the Rochester General Health System, a move intended to preserve access to a full range of health care services in Genesee County and to ensure the hospital’s future financial stability.

Under terms of the merger, which still requires approval from federal and state agencies, UMMC would retain its name and its own board of directors. Staffing is expected to remain at its current level while the Rochester system invests in new technologies and service lines at the Batavia site.

Recognizing the difficulty of continuing to operate as an independent community hospital, UMMC officials said they also discussed merging with health care systems in Buffalo before making the decision to formally affiliate with the Rochester system.

“We are excited about our shared vision for increased services, improved access to specialists and a viable business model that will keep United Memorial serving Genesee County for a long, long time,” UMMC CEO Mark Schoell said at a news conference Thursday at the Batavia hospital.

UMMC administrators and board members began an in-depth review of the hospital’s clinical and financial position last year.

Schoell said Thursday that UMMC officials believed the hospital was on solid footing but was not immune from the regulatory and budgetary issues confronting stand-alone rural hospitals.

UMMC, the product of a 2002 merger between St. Jerome and Genesee Memorial hospitals, had operating income in 2012 of $3.4 million on revenues of $79.7 million, according to its annual report.

“Small rural hospitals can’t survive without very strong connections,” Betty Lapp, chairwoman of the UMMC board of directors, said after the news conference. “Our whole goal is to keep health care local and to provide the services and opportunities for our patients.”

The hospital’s leaders believed it was better to pursue a merger with a larger system now, rather than wait years until UMMC’s position has weakened.

The 131-bed UMMC pursued the possibility of merging with Kaleida Health, the Catholic Health System and Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital, but ultimately felt Rochester General was the better fit, Schoell said.

The institutions have collaborated in services such as cardiology, pathology and urology since 2008 and recently opened a cancer and infusion center in Batavia.

“We have the same sense of community and the same sense of being a community asset as we move forward. We have the same philosophy toward our team members, our respect for our team members for what they contribute to our organization. And we have a track record,” Schoell said.

This is only the latest merger Rochester General has pursued with a community hospital in the less-populated surrounding counties.

The Rochester system for years has counted Newark-Wayne Community Hospital as an affiliate and in September announced plans to merge with Ontario County’s Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic.

All of the affiliated hospitals will be able to provide the same standard of care as at Rochester General, and the partnership with Newark-Wayne serves as a template for the merger with UMMC, said Mark C. Clement, Rochester system president and CEO.

email: swatson@buffnews.com