Cooper calls off deal for Lourdes, St. Francis

Cooper University Health Care has decided not to pursue the acquisition of Lourdes Health System and St. Francis Medical Center. Show here is the the Virgin Mary statue atop Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden lighted blue November 3, 2016, in honor of the Chicago Cubs’ World Series victory.

Cooper University Health Care said Friday that it has decided after thousands of hours of due diligence that it will not acquire Lourdes Health System, which has hospitals in Camden and Willingboro, and St. Francis Medical Center. Cooper had signed a letter of intent in August to acquire the health-care providers, which are part of Trinity Health.

Cooper said the due diligence included “a comprehensive review of compliance, legal, regulatory, and operational issues,” but it did not give a specific reason for canceling the deal.

“We are all disappointed, but did not make this decision lightly,” Cooper chief executive Adrienne Kirby said.

Lourdes, St. Francis, and their owner, Trinity Health, one of the largest Catholic health systems in the country, provided a joint statement, acknowledging that planning for consolidation had ended. “Our focus remains on the people we serve,” the statement said.

Lourdes has struggled financially. Its operating loss widened to $22.43 million in the year ended June 30, 2017, from a loss of $4.6 million the year before. In addition, Trinity recorded a $35.5 million write-down on Lourdes in anticipation of the sale of the Camden-based system.

The cancellation of  health-system mergers after a letter of intent has been signed is rare. In the Philadelphia region, it happened most recently in 2012 when a deal between Abington Health and the Catholic Holy Redeemer Health System fell apart because of a conflict over abortion services. A spokeswoman for Lourdes said that was not the issue here.