A 60-year-old North Bay medical group specializing in radiology and cancer care is merging a major portion of its operations with the Annadel Medical Group, officials said Monday.

The merger, effective today, adds 19 of Redwood Regional Medical Group's physicians — primarily oncologists — to the Annadel group, bringing its membership to 106 health care providers, including 89 physicians.

Details of the merger were finalized Monday, culminating nine months of negotiations between Redwood Regional, Annadel and St. Joseph Health in Sonoma County.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but officials said it involved the sale of fixed assets and equipment and leasing of medical office space occupied by Redwood Regional Medical Group.

Twelve radiologists who were also part of Redwood Regional formed a new entity, Redwood Radiology Group.

"We've got a long way to go," said Bob Just, regional chief operating officer of St. Joseph Heritage Healthcare, the medical practice foundation that partners with the Annadel group. "We're much stronger together."

The merger comes as Sonoma County's three major health care organizations — St. Joseph Health, Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa and Kaiser Permanente — are competing for business ties with local physicians during a nationwide consolidation of health care services.

At the same time, independent physicians are seeking the relief of transferring administration, billing, insurance, payroll and other non-medical functions to medical groups.

"There is economic pressure on independent physicians to join up," said Dr. Robert Feiwell of the Redwood Radiology Group.

Redwood Regional, a multi-specialty group, was founded by four radiologists in the mid-1950s and grew to include 31 physicians supported by a staff of 200 employees.

The Annadel group, founded by nine local pediatricians in 2008, is the fastest growing medical group in the county. Its physicians partner with St. Joseph Health hospitals — Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley — and outpatient services throughout the county.

Integration of health care — bringing wide-ranging services "under one large umbrella" — is a national trend, said Dr. Wayne Keiser, a Redwood Regional member since 1977.

Consolidation is intended to cut costs, he said, noting that oncologists need to be "part of a large organization" to keep up with the new cancer treatments and drugs.

Joining the St. Joseph Health system was a fit for Redwood Regional's members because "we have the same culture: patient care and patient service," Keiser said.

The Affordable Care Act is indirectly driving health care consolidation by requiring "better outcomes with less waste," said Todd Salnas, St. Joseph Health president.

For patients, the changes occurring today will be seamless, officials said.

Redwood Regional has served more than 500 patients a day. Patients will continue to see the same physicians at the group's Sotoyome Street and Fountaingrove facilities in Santa Rosa, as well as satellite sites in Petaluma, Healdsburg, Napa, Ukiah, Lakeport and Novato.

The physicians in Redwood Radiology will continue to be based at 121 Sotoyome St.

[END_CREDIT_0]You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.