The North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System is exploring two major moves that could raise its regional profile: Taking over a Manhattan hospital, and changing its own name to a secular one that also reflects a broad geographic base.

North Shore-LIJ is negotiating a takeover of Lenox Hill Hospital, a 652-bed facility on Manhattan's Upper East Side, said officials at both hospitals. If completed, the deal would cement North Shore-LIJ's position in New York City's hospital industry, experts said.

At the same time, the health system is considering dropping the references to Long Island and to Judaism in its name, which some see as inaccurate since it is a secular institution, a spokesman said. No name change has been decided upon, but North Shore-LIJ has hired Manhattan branding firm Landor Associates, which has worked on projects for the Super Bowl and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

"It is part of a larger re-branding effort that we're looking into," said North Shore-LIJ spokesman Terry Lynam. "We are a metropolitan-area health care provider, though there is a stereotype of us as being a strictly Long Island provider . . . many view us as a nonsecular provider, though we do not have any religious affiliations."

The current name comes from the 1997 merger of North Shore Health System and Long Island Jewish Medical Center. The system's 15 hospitals would retain their names in any rebranding effort, Lynam said.

Any name change could be part of a marketing campaign aimed at city consumers if Lenox Hill becomes part of the health system, experts said.

"It really is the right time for a name change," said public relations specialist Katherine Heaviside, president of Epoch 5 in Huntington, noting it had been 13 years since the merger.

Although North Shore-LIJ is Long Island's largest employer, with 37,000 employees, it is also the ninth-largest employer in New York City with three hospitals - Staten Island University Hospital, North Shore University at Forest Hills Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens on the Nassau border.

Lenox Hill, an independent hospital without a larger system to help negotiate insurance reimbursement rates or refer patients, has lost more than $165 million over the past five years, according to published reports.

"Like many independent hospitals across the country, we are exploring a strategic alliance with a larger health care system to be best positioned for the future of health care," said Lenox Hill spokeswoman Barbara Osborn.

Lenox Hill is seen as an attractive acquisition because it is the community hospital for Manhattan's most affluent neighborhood, said Howard Berliner, professor and chairman of the department of health policy and management at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. NYU Langone Medical Center and The Mount Sinai Hospital were interested, but Osborn said Lenox Hill is negotiating exclusively with North Shore-LIJ.

Any deal with Lenox Hill would require Federal Trade Commission approval to make sure its takeover would not create a monopoly. But Lynam said state Health Department approval wouldn't be necessary, leading some health experts to speculate that North Shore-LIJ wasn't interested in buying the hospital but merely taking control of its board.

For Lenox Hill, such a deal could help it get better insurance reimbursements and patient referrals while allowing it to maintain its own identity.

"There's a chance, with some good management . . . to make Lenox Hill a jewel of a hospital again," Berliner said.

A medical powerhouse

1953: North Shore University Hospital opens in Manhasset.

1954: Construction begins on Long Island Jewish Hospital on Nassau-Queens border.

1990: North Shore acquires Glen Cove Hospital.

1992: North Shore Health System is incorporated.

1994: Huntington Hospital becomes part of North Shore.

1995: North Shore takes control of hospitals in Plainview, Valley Stream, Forest Hills and Syosset.

1996: North Shore takes control of Staten Island University Hospital and Southside Hospital in Bay Shore.

1997: North Shore Health System and Long Island Jewish Medical Center merge, creating North Shore-LIJ Health System.

2002: North Shore-LIJ purchases Franklin Hospital Medical Center

2005: Affiliation with Nassau University Medical Center begins.

2008: Full purchase of Staten Island University Hospital made.

2010: Negotiations begin to take control of Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan.

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