DANVILLE - Geisinger and Lewistown Hospital officials have signed off on a plan to merge, pending regulatory review by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and approval by the state Attorney General's Office and other federal regulators which is expected in about three months.

The Geisinger Health System Foundation Board of Directors voted Thursday to approve an agreement it has been working on with the leadership of Lewistown Healthcare Foundation. The board at Lewistown Hospital voted its approval of the merger agreement on Wednesday in a 216-17 vote, Geisinger reported Monday.

Both Geisinger and Lewistown Hospital have been completing legal and operational due diligence since signing a letter of intent in December.

The Lewistown merger follows Geisinger's merger with Shamokin Area Community Hospital, Community Medical Center in Scranton and The Bloomsburg Hospital.

Geisinger plans to keep Lewistown Hospital open as the acute care hospital in the region; invest capital commitment in excess of $50 million to allow for facility upgrades, renovations to patient care rooms and completion of Big Valley clinic in Belleville; keep all staff to the extent possible with comparable benefits/compensation; maintain an open medical staff with the intent of keeping all physicians - independent, employed and contracted - to the extent possible; continue participation with insurances currently in place at Lewistown Hospital; keep the School of Nursing open; recruit needed specialists to the area to ensure more health care services locally; meet or exceed Lewistown Hospital Foundation's charity and self-pay programs; assume the long-term debt and unfunded liability of the Lewistown Hospital Foundation's pension plan; create a new Community Advisory Board and maintain local identity with the name Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital.

Lewistown Hospital and Geisinger already work together in a number of ways, including the hospitalist, tele-stroke, tele-echo and eICU programs at the hospital. The multi-specialty Geisinger-Lewistown physician practice has served the community since 1983, and a second primary care practice is located in Juniata. Geisinger acquired Lewistown Cardiology Associates in October 2011 and Juniata Valley Gastroenterology Associates and Endoscopy Center in May 2012.