Utica, NY (WIBX) - Faxton St. Luke's Healthcare and St. Elizabeth Medical Center may merge in the future.

A press release from both hospitals says their boards have each passed resolutions that allows them to examine the feasibility and benefits of merging, or other ways to more closely link the two organizations.

Officials say the economic climate and regulatory environments make it difficult for hospitals to survive.

Those challenges include changes in reimbursements for service and unfunded mandates.

The two hospitals employ nearly 4,900 and have combined operating budgets of more than $535-million dollars.

The process to determine the feasibility of a merger is expected to take about 18 to 24 months.