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Southeast Missouri Hospital and St. Francis Medical Center are moving forward with plans to permanently affiliate.

The effort appeared to get some support in a report saying such an affiliation would save a $47 million over five years.

The estimate came from an efficiency study conducted by the Arthur Andersen & Co. consulting firm.

Hospital administrators aren't saying much publicly about the possible savings. That's understandable as no doubt a large portion of the savings would come from personnel costs. The two hospitals employ about 2,800 people, which makes them two of the top five employers in town.

Both hospitals have been up front with the community from the start of the affiliation talks, and that candor can be expected to continue in the months ahead.

The significant cost savings are just another positive indication that the affiliation talks are headed in the right direction.