Henderson Memorial, having served East Texans since 1928, decided to seek an affiliation while still in a strong financial and operating position. Joe Lupica and Paul Bergeron helped the Henderson leadership and physicians establish their “must haves” and conduct a thorough evaluation process based on those criteria. The Board and CEO selected East Texas Regional Health System, rejecting their merger “template” and negotiating stronger local governance terms than that system had ever accepted, along with capital investment and physician recruiting commitments. The local 501(c)(3) retained ownership of the hospital, merging through a lease and MTI compliance, but with strong accountability back to the local entity.

A compilation of the local news stories may tell it best. “We looked at every option to better the health care for residents in Henderson and Rusk County,” said Ron Franks, chairman of the Henderson Memorial board of directors. Although the hospital has been in good financial condition, Franks said, “It was a decision based on securing a bright healthcare future for Rusk County.” Mark Leitner, CEO, said the community “can remain confident that the hospital will not only survive but will thrive during coming years.” In the affiliation agreement, ETMC pledged to make significant facility upgrades, as well as clinical equipment and information technology enhancements. The local hospital will also benefit as it will maintain a majority of seats on the local hospital board.