EDISON, NJ—John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, better known as JFK Hospital, could be under new ownership as early as the end of 2016.

Due to competition from recent New Jersey hospital mergers and changes in healthcare related to the passage Affordable Care Act, industry insiders seem to think a merger or buyout is inevitably in the hospital’s future.

JFK is one of only a dozen independent hospitals in New Jersey, which has seen a flurry of hospital mergers in recent years.

Expansion by merger has become a common occurrence in New Jersey, as smaller hospitals struggle to sustain themselves in the changing healthcare environment.

As more and more mergers take place, it is becoming increasingly difficult and costly for independent hospitals like JFK to operate on their own.

The 498-bed, non-profit hospital, which prides itself on being a community-based teaching hospital, hopes that a merger will allow for expanding operations and better managing growing healthcare demands and responsibilities.

There are several potential larger hospital systems looking to buy JFK, but none have been as vocal about the possibility as RWJ Barnabas Health and its CEO Barry Ostrowsky.

RWJ Barnabas Health was formed in March 2016 by the merger of Barnabas Health and Robert Wood Johnson Health System, making it the largest hospital conglomerate in New Jersey.

Ostrowsky confirmed that RWJ Barnabas Health is a potential buyer, and boasted about how efficient JFK Medical is, and how interested RWJ Barnabas Health is in adding the hospital to its already massive healthcare structure.

JFK spokesman Steven Weiss was tight-lipped and would not offer any concrete details, indicating that the hospital hopes to make a decision about its future before the end of the year.

Weiss would only offer that “JFK is in the middle of a process that is underway,” according to NJ.com’s Susan Livio and Spencer Kent.

The report also included analysis from Donald Malafronte, a hospital industry consultant who said that Hackensack Meridian Health and Atlantic Health were also likely interested in adding JFK to their networks.

JFK Medical Center began as a 205-bed hospital in 1967, built on 40 acres of land donated by Edison Township, and funded largely by Congress and community donations.

On its website, JFK states their mission is, “JFK Health is committed to excellence in providing quality and compassionate healthcare services to its diverse communities.”

It is unclear how a merger with any of their potential buyers, will impact that mission.

Recently, JFK Medical was one of 35 hospitals involved in a legal battle over taxation, where several towns sued non-profit hospitals challenging portions of the tax-exempt status they enjoy.

In August, JFK agreed to pay a “community service fee” of $500,000 to Edison in 2016 and 2017 and maintain their tax-exempt status.

That fee will remain in place unless both parties agree to a change.