Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Crystal City and Mercy Health announced Wednesday that the two organizations have entered negotiations toward a potential transition of Jefferson Regional into Mercy.

“Our hospital has been very successful at bringing high-quality care to our community,” said Bill McKenna, chairman of the Jefferson Regional Board of Directors. “As everyone knows, health care is facing rapid changes, and our board felt we could better assure the patients we serve continued access to the latest technologies, and advances in quality health care by being a part of a large and vibrant regional system.”

Jefferson Regional received proposals from several leading nonprofit and investor-owned hospital organizations. Following board review of all of the submissions — all of which included their own points of merit — the board narrowed its focus to one preferred bidder.

“Our board and advisers carefully compared all of the proposals, and felt that Mercy offered the best fit for us both culturally and from the standpoint of our mission and commitment to the community,” McKenna said.

“Mercy is delighted to have the opportunity to participate with the board and leaders of Jefferson Regional in planning for the future of health care in Jefferson County,” said Lynn Britton, Mercy president and chief executive officer. “We believe our organizations share a similar vision for health care in the region, and we are excited to be able to enter this next stage of discussions.”

Jefferson Regional and Mercy will begin to address details of the proposal and hope to complete evaluations and negotiations by the end of 2012.

Established as Jefferson Memorial Hospital in 1957, Jefferson Regional Medical Center is a 251-bed private, not-for-profit hospital in Crystal City managed by a local board of directors.

Mercy is the eighth largest Catholic health care system in the United States and serves more than 3 million people annually. Mercy includes 31 hospitals, more than 200 outpatient facilities, 38,000 co-workers and 1,500 integrated physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

Mercy also has outreach ministries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. In the east Missouri region, Mercy’s services include a 979-bed hospital in St. Louis, 187-bed hospital in Washington, and Mercy Clinic, a 460-member multispecialty physician organization.