DANVILLE - An agreement is in place for SUN Home Health and Hospice to be integrated into the Geisinger Community Health Services as early as July 1.

No immediate changes in SUN staffing or leadership is expected as a result, representatives of both organizations said Wednesday, and SUN will continue as a separate corporation within the Geisinger network.

"Over time, these organizations will then share senior leadership, administrative and support functions," according to Mike Ferlazzo, Geisinger public relations specialist.

The state attorney general must approve the agreement.

The agreement was announced Wednesday in a joint press release.

One of SUN's seven branch locations is at 102 E. Independence St., Shamokin. A hospice care center is located in Sunbury. Its corporate office is in Northumberland.

"SUN Home Health and Hospice enables patients to stay at home with their families while recovering from surgery, dealing with a chronic illness or facing the challenges associated with aging," Denise B. Prince, Geisinger Health System vice president for population health, said in a press release. "We are excited about expanding our programs by integrating with another like-minded, quality not-for-profit organization focused on doing what is best for patients."

The Columbia Montour Home Health will continue to operate separately as a Geisinger affiliate.

No change for patients

Brenda Apple, community relations and development coordinator for SUN, said the agreement "means absolutely nothing for patients."

SUN patients will continue to see their current nurses and therapists, and it won't affect a patient's insurance coverage.

"We will continue to accept the insurances we currently do," Apple said.

SUN will maintain its brand name, and will also maintain its corporate registration and related information with the state and federal governments.

Apple said home healthcare has endured a lot of cutbacks over the years, and she expects the integration with Geisinger will ensure stability.

"As president and chief executive officer of SUN Home Health and Hospice, I am excited to be able to announce the signing of the comprehensive integration agreement by which SUN Home Health and Hospice will become part of Geisinger Helath System. SUN Home Health and Hospice's management team believes that our integration will best serve our patients, community, employees and organization, and enhance care well into the future," SUN's Steven Richard said in a prepared statement.

"We are fortunate to have Geisinger, a nationally-recognized healthcare organization, here in our home community, and we look forward to looking at ways we can work with Geisinger Community Health Services to enhance care well into the future," Richard said.

Geisinger Health System has grown significantly with the purchase of or merger with a number of other hospitals in the past four years, including in Shamokin, Bloomsburg, Scranton and Lewistown. A merger of the Holy Spirit Health System, Camp Hill, continues to progress, and discussions are ongoing with AtlantiCare health system in New Jersey for an out-of-state affiliation.