Lifespan and Care New England have filed a formal application with state regulators to combine their hospital systems into one academic medical center with Brown University. 

The filings were submitted to state health officials late Monday but had not yet been publicly posted, Joseph Wendelken, a Health Department spokesman, said. 

Rhode Island’s largest and second-largest hospital chain announced  on Feb. 23 that they had signed a merger agreement.

The hospital systems said in a joint statement released Monday that they plan to file a Hospital Conversion Act application with the state Department of Health and the state Attorney General’s office.

The deal also needs approval from federal regulators. The two hospital systems said they have submitted an antitrust filing with the Federal Trade Commission on April 14. 

The regulatory process is expected to take “several months,” the statement said. 

The long-anticipated deal between Rhode Island’s two largest hospital networks includes a five-year $125 million investment from Brown, which operates the state's only medical school.

The proposed partners have launched a website touting the benefits of a unified health system for the state. And they continued to laud the proposed deal in their latest announcement.

Lifespan’s president and CEO, Dr. Timothy J. Babineau said in a statement that the partnership will be a “catalyst for care transformation for the state.”  The collaboration will “provide greater access for patients,’’ increase opportunities for collaboration in clinical care, education and research and enable Rhode Island “to continue to attract and keep the best doctors and researchers.”

Care New England’s president and CEO,  Dr. James E. Fanale, said that reaction to the proposed merger from the community and within the organization has been “outstanding.” He said researchers and clinicians have expressed excitement about being able to share their work “more broadly, more quickly.’’

The proposed merger, first announced in September, follows mounting financial losses for the two hospital systems during the coronavirus pandemic. Former Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, who left office to take over as commerce secretary in the Biden administration, had pushed merger talks between the two hospital systems.

The Rhode Island Foundation on Monday announced that it will convene a committee to gather public opinion research and feedback about the proposed merger to “supplement the regulatory approval process.”

“We’ve worked with Lifespan and Care New England and have been supportive of the idea of a locally-controlled integrated academic health system for many years,’’ Neil D. Steinberg, the nonprofit’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “We’re pleased to see the formal merger process moving forward. That said, the community’s voice must remain an integral part of both the planning around, and implementation of, the merged entity.”  

The committee will include members of the Foundation-convened committee that developed the Health in Rhode Island plan. The group is co-chaired by Steinberg and Jane Hayward, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Health Center Association.

Health reporter Lynn Arditi can be reached at larditi@thepublicsradio.org. Follow her on Twitter @LynnArditi.