Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital is in talks with the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center about a merger that could create one of the largest children’s hospitals in the United States.

According to Robert Alpern, dean of the Yale School of Medicine, the YNCH and CCMC have signed a letter of intent agreeing to begin discussions on the possibility of a merger in the near future. Alpern stated that talks have only just begun and that a concrete merger could take months to materialize. He added that the two organizations have talked about a possible merger “for years.”

The two hospitals released a joint statement Tuesday discussing the potential merger. Mark D’Antonio, media relations coordinator for Yale New Haven Hospital, said the statement was not made as part of an official release, but that the YNCH and CCMC crafted the statement in unison after agreeing to provide comment reactively to those requesting information about a possible merger.

“We can confirm that Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and Yale New Haven Hospital have agreed to discuss a partnership to create a new Connecticut and regional system of pediatric care with national prominence and deep community engagement,” the statement read. “While we share this important vision, talks are at an early stage and are ongoing.”

In an email to the News, D’Antonio said that YNHH Senior Vice President for Public Affairs Vincent Petrini had asked that the discussions be framed as being “in the earliest of stages.”

Alpern said that a merger would likely result in an arrangement in which the two institutions would maintain their individual physical presences but be run as one entity and share infrastructure and doctors.

He outlined some reasons behind a possible future merger, saying that because Connecticut is a small state, it does not have enough children to fill two hospitals to optimal capacity, for example.

“[This] is not like adult hospitals, where there are plenty of elderly adults who are sick,” Alpern said. “Most kids are healthy and most kids don’t spend a lot of time in the hospital.”

Alpern added that hospitals require a fairly large population of child patients in order to support the development of specialist care for rare diseases. This becomes more difficult when an already small number of children requiring care is divided between two distinct centers, Alpern said. He added that the top children’s hospitals in the country usually treat “much larger populations of children.”

According to Alpern, the two institutions are already sharing doctors in cardiac surgery. A merger would allow the expansion of that practice so that doctors can also be shared for uncommon procedures such as bone marrow and liver transplants and for the treatment of multiple rare diseases, Alpern said.

According to spokesperson Kelly Donnelly, Gov. Dannel Malloy’s office knows that talks between Yale New Haven Hospital and the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center are ongoing.

“We are aware that discussions are occurring between the two entities and look forward to learning more details of what ultimately results from that dialogue,” Donnelly said.

The merger talks come nearly a month after lawmakers approved an affiliation between the Yale New Haven Health System and Lawrence+Memorial Healthcare, which is based in New London, Connecticut. Last February, Malloy issued an executive order preventing the affiliation due to concerns about state health care costs, but the order was reversed after talks between Yale and the governor’s office.

Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital is part of Yale New Haven Hospital, while the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center is affiliated with the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington, Connecticut.

Jon Greenberg contributed reporting.