BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Health care organization Ascension has signed a letter of intent to sell St. Vincent’s Medical Center to Hartford Healthcare.

Bridgeport-based St. Vincent’s is a 473-bed medical center and teaching hospital.

The decision was announced Tuesday. If the transaction is completed, Hartford Healthcare will continue to operate St. Vincent’s in compliance with Catholic traditions.

Hartford Healthcare hopes to extend its reach to provide ‘excellent care,” to residents in Fairfield County, the company said Tuesday.

The sale does not include St. Vincent’s College. Ascension is the nation’s largest Catholic nonprofit health care system, with over 165,000 employees.

Originally founded in 1903, St. Vincent’s focuses on persons living in poverty.