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Hospital to change name

The Douglas County Hospital has been serving the region since 1955 as a non-profit, community owned and locally governed hospital. A name change will be announced on May 11. (File photo)1 / 2
Carl Vaagenes2 / 2

A new name is in the works for the Douglas County Hospital and its partner clinics, including the Osakis Clinic.

On April 18, Douglas County Hospital CEO Carl Vaagenes officially announced what hospital and clinic employees learned a few weeks ago.

"I'm thrilled about what this means for our organization, our team and our community," said Vaagenes in an email to the newspaper.

He cited three key reasons for the upcoming name change, which will be unveiled at a communitywide celebration on May 11.

First, the organization has grown to serve a region far greater than Douglas County as programs and services have expanded. For instance, Vaagenes said that 40 percent of the hospital's workforce now resides outside of Douglas County, and the hospital and clinics now serve patients from 186 zip codes.

Second, the organization is more than a hospital, he said. Throughout the campuses are a wide range of specialty clinics and programs, from family medicine to OB/GYN services, a Joint Replacement Center, an accredited Cancer Center, and PEAK Performance and rehab services.

"A new name can encompass everything we do now — and leave room to continue growing," Board Chairman Dr. Eric Nelson with Heartland Orthopedic Specialists stated in a news release.

And, finally, since merging with Heartland Orthopedic Specialists, Alexandria Clinic and Osakis Clinic in 2012, the four entities have continued operating under separate names, with a loosely tied identity.

"We now have the chance to unify under a single brand," said Charlie Meyer, immediate past

chairman of the hospital's board of directors.

Vaagenes said he recently visited with former administrator of Our Lady of Mercy Hospital, Sister Patrice Kiefer, to talk about the changes. He said Kiefer pointed out the similarities between the upcoming rebrand and the 1969 merger between Our Lady of Mercy Hospital and Douglas County Hospital, when the two organizations became Douglas County Hospital North and South.

Vaagenes said that was a difficult decision for the Sisters who had invested their lives into their health care ministry in Alexandria and the region, but Kiefer believed it was the right decision at the time. She recalled having the responsibility of welcoming everyone to Douglas County Hospital North over the PA system the day after the merger, Vaagenes said.

"In short, history seems to be repeating itself as we forge ahead with the decision to announce a new name — to represent our integrated organizations and acknowledge the significance of our regional presence," Vaagenes said.

The rebrand process has spanned 18 months, he said, with discussion and input sought from more than 900 employees and 400 community members.

Some have asked hospital officials if a new name signals a change in ownership or preparation for a sale. "Absolutely not," said Vaagenes. "Our organization is financially strong, nationally recognized and regionally loved. We're positioning ourselves to remain independent into the future."

Patients travel to Douglas County Hospital and its clinics from long distances, and they aren't coming to the facility because of a name on the building, he said. They are coming "based on the reputation for the superior quality of care provided by the health care delivery team attending to them," Vaagenes added.

"We'll still be the same team you've trusted for years — now with more potential than ever," said Dr. Deb Dittberner, chief medical officer.

"We're looking forward to bringing this new name to our neighbors, family and friends," said Eddie Reif, director of community relations and development. "Great things are ahead for this organization — and our entire community."

Public unveiling

The public is invited to attend the unveiling of the Douglas County Hospital's new name on the front lawn of the hospital at 8:15 a.m. on Friday, May 11. The event will also be live-streamed on the hospital's Facebook page.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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