WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — UMass Memorial Health Care and Harrington Health Care System have taken another step forward in their proposed merger by filing with state regulatory agencies.

The health care systems have jointly submitted the first in a series of required filings for UMass Memorial to become the parent company of Harrington, UMass Memorial said in a statement, Masslive.com reported.

Worcester-based UMass Memorial said it could take up to four months to complete the final regulatory steps.

Officials from both health care systems say a merger would benefit Central Massachusetts through investments to support clinical care; maintaining existing acute care hospital facilities in Southbridge and Webster for at least five years; and strengthening common goals of continuously improving quality of care and patient safety, while providing better access and affordability.

The systems started exploring a merger in January and officially agreed to merge in September.

Ed Moore, the CEO at Southbridge-based Harrington, previously said the strain from the coronavirus pandemic has made a merger even more imperative.

The financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed.