Thursday, the Conway Regional Health System Board of Directors announced plans to enter into "exclusive strategic affiliation discussions" with St. Vincent Health System of Little Rock, an affiliate of Catholic Health Initiatives.

Although the final agreement has not yet been reached, the anticipated partnership is meant to "strengthen their market presence, enhance quality and create the platform for improved efficiencies," a Conway Regional press release said.

"We are pleased that the Conway Regional board selected St. Vincent for exclusive strategic affiliation discussions," said Peter Banko, President and CEO, St. Vincent. "Our missions and goals are aligned and a strategic alliance between our two systems positions each of us to better serve the people of Arkansas."

In October of 2013, the Conway Regional Health System board announced its intention to explore strategic affiliation proposals from various health care organizations. Proposals were presented from numerous organizations and after months of review, the vision and structure of St. Vincent’s proposal was considered to be the most aligned with the needs and vision of Conway Regional.

Jim Lambert, President and CEO of Conway Regional Health System, said the board of directors evaluated a number of different proposals from multiple health care providers, keeping the organization’s mission at the foremost, which is "to provide high quality, compassionate health care to our community," he said.

"Ultimately, we felt an affiliation with St. Vincent Health System would best enable us to achieve our mission and goals in an increasingly challenging health care environment," Lambert said. "Their proposal not only accounted for our desire to continue delivering compassionate care to our communities, but was also respectful of the important role we have as a community-based health system."

It is important to note this will not be a sale or acquisition. Both St. Vincent and Conway Regional will retain their autonomy, individual identities and separate corporate governance structures. The affiliation is intended to be structured in a way that will bring value to both organizations and the communities they serve.

It is expected to take several months of further discussions and negotiations before a final agreement can be reached on the details of the specific structure of this relationship.

"Obviously there are many details to work out from this point but we feel positive about the possibilities of harnessing our collective strength," Lambert concluded.

(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at or by phone at 505-1215. Send us your news at