"It is our duty, as a board, to be proactive in assessing the future of health care and the needs of our institution," said Wylie, president of Mitchell Sinkler & Starr, a Center City investment firm.
The hospital board said it would form a committee to explore options with the help of Cain Brothers & Co. L.L.C., a New York investment bank that specializes in the health-care industry.
The move by Chester County, which owns a 218-bed hospital in West Chester, came just weeks after Abington Health and Holy Redeemer Health System in Montgomery County ended their merger talks amid controversy over Abington's willingness to stop performing abortions.
The Chester County Hospital & Health System Inc., which includes the hospital and affiliated operations, posted a $1.55 million loss in the nine months ended March 31, according to a bond disclosure document.
The hospital, which has a relatively low Ba1 credit rating from Moody's Investor Service, was given a negative outlook in December by the credit-rating agency because of the institution's plans to borrow $37.5 million, dramatically increasing its debt.
In March, Chester County Hospital trimmed its workforce by 45, or 3 percent. The next month it announced that it had begun construction on a long-planned $45.2 million, three-story building that will accommodate up to 72 private patient rooms.
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