MISSOULA, Mont. -

Missoula's Community Medical Center has been reviewing options for a potential merger with a larger organization for more than a year, according to Mary Windecker, Vice President of Planning and Partnering.

In a letter addressed to the community, the hospital’s board of directors gave several reasons for pursuing a partnership.

The letter claims a merger would lower the cost of care to patients, improve the quality of care, advance the development of specialty service centers and new models of care, and provide more funding to invest in new technologies and medical staff recruitment.

Windecker says all potential candidates have signed non-disclosure agreements and she wouldn’t name any of the candidates, but several medical professionals told NBC Montana it is common knowledge that a merger has been discussed with Providence Medical Group, the parent company of Missoula’s other hospital, St. Patrick.

Missoula neurosurgeon Carter Beck believes such a merger would benefit both hospitals as well as the Missoula community.

“A merger between Community Hospital and Providence will provide the best opportunity for Missoula doctors to build advanced medical and surgical programs,” said Beck. “By eliminating destructive professional rivalries, wasteful duplication of expensive infrastructure and technology, a combined medical system will be able to cut costs and improve the quality of patient care in the region.”

According to the hospital’s website, Community Medical Center is owned by the community of Missoula, and governed by a 17-member board of directors.

Roughly 1,100 people work there. The hospital cut about 60 full time positions last October through furloughs and job cuts.

Community Medical is the only facility in Missoula County that provides obstetrical and newborn care.

Providence Medical Group, St. Patrick Hospital's parent company, owns facilities in five state and more than 20 cities, and employees more than 64,000 people.