Evanston-based NorthShore University HealthSystem today announced plans to merge with Edward-Elmhurst Health of Naperville.

The combined operation will have nine hospitals — six from NorthShore, three from Edward-Elmhust — and 25,000 employees.

As part of the merger, the two organizations will each create a $100 million investment fund for their respective service areas. “The funds,” says a news release, “will be used to support partnerships with organizations working to enhance community health equity and well-being and advance local economic growth”

This will be the third combination/expansion for NorthShore since early 2020, following mergers with Swedish Covenant and Northwest Community Hospitals.

The NorthShore/Edward-Elmhurst operation will have two regions, one for each chain. NorthShore President and CEO J.P. Gallagher will have the same titles for the combined system. Edward-Elmhurst President and CEO Mary Lou Mastro will head the EE region. A single board of directors will oversee the combination.

NorthShore spokesperson Colette Urban tells Evanston Now that a “new parent identity” will be determined for the combined operation, but no branding decision or timeline has been determined yet.

She adds that each local hospital is expected to retain its current identity.

NorthShore’s hospitals are primarily in the north and northwest suburbs. Edward-Elmhust’s facilities are in south and southwest suburban areas.

The merger is expected to close later this year, pending regulatory review and approval.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.