Catholic Health Initiatives, the parent organization of CHI Health, announced Thursday that it plans to merge with another Catholic health system.

CHI, which is based in the Denver area, said it is combining forces with Dignity Health, a Catholic health care system based in San Francisco.

The two organizations had been discussing a possible merger for more than a year.

The deal is a true merger of equals, with both organizations contributing six board members to the new entity and both companies' CEOs continuing in those roles with specific areas of oversight. The two companies said their combined headquarters will be in the Chicago area, and they will operate under a new name that will be revealed after the deal closes, which is expected to occur in the second half of next year.

The combined organization will have 139 hospitals and nearly 160,000 employees, including more than 25,000 doctors.

CHI and Dignity have no overlap in their existing operations, so there are not expected to be staff cuts or closings of any facilities. Individual facilities will continue to operate under their existing names, at least for the foreseeable future.

CHI Health is the largest health system in Nebraska, with more than 12,000 employees. It owns about a dozen hospitals in the state, including St. Elizabeth and Nebraska Heart Hospital in Lincoln.