MINNEAPOLIS - Saying that they aim to create "one of the most comprehensive and geographically accessible health systems in the state," Fairview and HealthEast on Wednesday announced they have reached an agreement to merge.

A Fairview spokesperson clarified for KARE 11 that the deal involves Fairview acquiring HealthEast. At this point it is unclear whether the new entity will operate exclusively under the Fairview flag, or retain the HealthEast brand for some of its facilities or services. She says administrators are meeting with staff Wednesday to discuss the merger, and how it could possibly impact staffing.

She would not comment on the possibility of job cuts or layoffs.

The announcement notes that the two health care giants serve complimentary geographical areas, with Health East being strong in the east metro, while Fairview has facilities in the south, west, and north metro, and northern Minnesota. The combined system will have a greater, more unified reach.

"Bringing Fairview and HealthEast together will create a world-class health system committed to serving our communities and the region,” said James Hereford, Fairview president and CEO. “Our organizations are stronger together. By joining forces, we can expand clinical services and combine our expertise to serve patients where they live and work, giving them access to the widest range of care choices available.”

Combining the Fairview and HealthEast systems will allow the expansion of clinical services, and combine the expertise of health care professionals and administrators.

"Working together, we can focus our joint resources to improve the health of our communities,” said Kathryn Correia, HealthEast president and CEO. "Both HealthEast and Fairview are dedicated to providing health and well-being programs and services that meet the needs of diverse local communities."

Fairview and Health East are no strangers to each other, having shared a close and "long standing" working relationship. In a statement released to the media, leaders note the similar missions and histories of serving local communities.

The combined system will be led by Fairview President and CEO James Hereford and governed by the existing Fairview board of directors, which will add three HealthEast board members. The organizations plan to begin integration efforts after receiving regulatory and legal approval, perhaps in spring of 2017.