Westchester Medical Center and Sound Shore Health System announced Tuesday that they have entered into talks about partnering to deliver patient care in the county.

The goal is to combine the primary and secondary levels of care provided by Sound Shore hospitals with the more complex treatments provided at Westchester Medical to strengthen the county's health care system, officials at the two institutions said.

The result would be "more seamless care, more rational care," said Michael Israel, president and chief executive of Westchester Medical Center.

A memorandum of understanding was signed three weeks ago, formalizing talks that both Israel and his counterpart at Sound Shore, John Spicer, said had been going on for a while.

Israel added that he expects details of a combined health care system to be worked out in the next 45 to 60 days so that an application, called a Certificate of Need, to justify the arrangement can be submitted to the state health department for approval.

Westchester Medical Center, in Valhalla, is the county's second-largest employer and has an annual budget of about $900 million. In addition to providing patient care, the Medical Center trains doctors.

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Sound Shore has a budget of about $325 million and operates the community-based Sound Shore Medical Center and Schaffer Extended Care Facility in New Rochelle, Mount Vernon Hospital, and the Dorothea Hopfer School of Nursing, also in Mount Vernon.

Spicer said Sound Shore had been casting about for an academic affiliate for a while, and that the conclusion was reached that "our best partner would be Westchester."

"We believe we can provide care to infants through geriatric patients, and that by keeping all that business in Westchester [County] we can offer our community a level of health care they've never seen before," Spicer said.