Some will call it a long-overdue move. Some will see it as kowtowing to political correctness. Some of those involved chalked it up to a simple branding opportunity and nomenclature consistency.
Regardless of the underlying reasons why, though, Intermountain Healthcare announced Thursday afternoon that Utah’s Dixie Regional Medical Center will be changing its name to Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital, effective Jan. 1, 2021.
It was not lost on any of the three officials addressing the media in a Zoom call to announce and explain the change that having “Dixie” in the hospital’s existing name has become politically charged in this time of racial and social justice movements taking place around the country.
“Changing our name to Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital is a strong, healing way forward. This change doesn’t come lightly; we have considered the impact and meaning surrounding this change for a long time,” said Mitch Cloward, Dixie Regional Medical Center’s administrator. “The word ‘Dixie’ still has a beautiful meaning for many who live here. … For others who are not from this area, it has offensive connotations. Our hospitals’ names should be strong, clear, and help everyone we serve feel safe and welcome.”
Then again, neither was it lost on the DRMC officials that the change is sure to spark a litany of reactions.
“We anticipate that this will be received in different ways. I think some people will welcome it. Some people will be disappointed. And I think the rest, over time, it will sink in,” said Brian Chadaz, chairman of the Board of Trustees. “But we want to stress our strategy for doing that, and that is to provide clarification, to provide simplification, and to position this hospital for the future. We’re hoping that this change will be understood and provide clarity not only locally, but nationwide and worldwide as to who we are, where we are, and what we do.”
Indeed, Patrick Carroll, the hospital’s medical director, attributed the name change to the need to clarify to the public at large exactly where the hospital is, noting that “Dixie” is a broad term.
Carroll noted that Intermountain Healthcare’s communications department advised about eight years ago that its facilities adopt a consistent naming pattern — one that includes the city name and the specific use of the word “hospital.” As a result, “11 Intermountain hospitals now follow this pattern.”
He added his belief that the specificity of the hospital’s location will aid in “recruitment of physicians, research scientists, and other caregivers.”
“We really think that this name change is going to better position this hospital for the future, to hopefully eliminate confusion as to, for example, ‘where is Dixie,’ and to help in attracting talent from outside,” added Chadaz.
Pressed on when the timing of the decision was made, and if it correlated to nearby Dixie State University considering its own name change, Cloward initially repeated multiple times, “This is something we’ve discussed for months.”
When asked to clarify how many months, he ultimately replied, “This topic has come up for not only months but years.”
Carroll conceded that “occasionally” over the years, visiting or prospective physicians have asked him about the hospital’s name, and that he has endeavored to explain “the heritage and the meaning of Dixie” within the surrounding community.
Cloward, however, seemed to indicate that the feeling was the time had come not to have to make such explanations anymore.
A hospital’s very name, he reiterated, should not make anyone uncomfortable.
“A hospital needs to be a place where patients all feel welcome and safe to be cared for,” Cloward said.
The official name change will have to wait until 2021, Chadaz and Cloward explained, in order to give the hospital sufficient time to complete a “comprehensive checklist” and to meet “a lot of regulatory requirements.
“There are a lot of boxes to check. That will take at least 120 days. And so that puts us towards the end of November. We prefer to start at the beginning of the year, January 1, 2021, in a clean calendar year,” Cloward explained.
He concluded by saying it is his hope that any controversy or debate over the name change won’t obscure the hospital’s primary concern: “It’s really important for us to emphasize where our focus is — on providing world-class health care to every patient that comes to our hospital.”