UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Utica's hospitals on Thursday announced the first official step toward a potential full affiliation agreement. Faxton-St. Luke's Healthcare and St. Elizabeth Medical Center have signed a memorandum of understanding which puts them on the road to gathering the approvals they need, internally from their own boards and externally from the Syracuse Diocese and New York State, in order to join together as one entity under the direction of a single parent company. "Our respective boards have worked diligently during the past twelve months to determine an appropriate model of care for the hospitals. The model we are pursuing maintains the Catholicity of SEMC, allows for more linkages between the two organizations and provides opportunities to use our limited resources to serve the greater good of our patients and residents," says Norman I. Siegel, Chairman of the Board for SEMC. Basically, all three hospital buildings, Faxton, St. Luke's and St. Elizabeth, would remain, but would be overseen by a single 'parent' organization and governed by a single board of directors. Current Faxton-St. Luke's Healthcare President and CEO Scott Perra will be President/CEO of the new, parent company. Current SEMC President and CEO Richard Ketcham will be retiring. Perra says that joining forces in this way will allow the hospitals to save money and operate more efficiently, therefore ensuring their long-term survival. But he says hospital users shouldn't see a difference. "Larger organization can negotiate better prices from its vendors, we can eliminate duplication, those sorts of things, so I think there's going to be some real things, but it'll be more behind the scenes. A patient showing up in either of our emergency departments won't see much of a change," says Perra. Perra added that the organizations will do their best to ensure that any job loss comes through voluntary retirements, but added that, when Faxton and St. Luke's hospitals joined in 2000, they eventually grew in employment. Both organizations will spend much of 2013 getting the approvals required to make the full affiliation official. If all goes smoothly, the affiliation is expected to be activated at the end of 2013.