GASTONIA Gaston Memorial Hospital became CaroMont Regional Medical Center on Thursday and also rolled out a new community health movement with a slogan thats already stirring controversy: Cheat Death.
At an unveiling ceremony, hospital president and CEO Randy Kelley said the tagline may be edgy, but that this approach is needed in a county with a health ranking of 81st among North Carolinas 100 counties.
To put it bluntly, we have a health care crisis in Gaston County, Kelley said. And to solve it were going to have to transition to an entirely new structure of delivering health care.
While the goal of making Gaston the healthiest county in North Carolina is audacious, Kelley said, we need an equally audacious and provocative rallying cry.
At Thursdays event, a hospital team wore Cheat Death T-shirts and toasted each other with Cheat Death smoothies.
Kelley said the hospital will be working on a medically approved Cheat Death Kits for schools, businesses and churches. The kits will have step-by-step approaches that will help people increase their odds of living longer.
Also in the works is a plan with gyms and restaurants that will offer such things as Cheat Death workouts and Cheat Death menu specials.
Health care tips will appear in social media.
Cheat Death. When you get beyond the initial shock isnt that exactly what you want your health care provider to help you do? Kelley asked. Its exactly what we help our patients do every day of the year.
The Chapel Hill-based marketing firm Immortology whose website says We make brands immortal was hired to work on the hospital renaming and new slogan.
Reviews of the Cheat Death slogan are mixed so far in the community.
Gaston County commissioner Jason Williams, who also serves on the CaroMont Health Board of Trustees, didnt attend Thursdays event at the hospital. But he said within the last two days hed heard from hospital employees, physicians and citizens expressing disappointment over the Cheat Death tagline.
They think it has a negative connotation, Williams said. Some doctors believe it cheapens their field. I had a minister who thought it was even blasphemous.
While there was consensus on the board of trustees about the hospital name change and the new tagline there was never a formal vote, Williams said.
He raised the possibility of ditching the Cheat Death idea.
Gaston County is very conservative politically, socially, and religiously, Williams said. I dont think this is going to be too well-received by the community. And I dont think its ever too late to step back and revisit this.
Williams had no problem with the hospital name change as long as the old name was recognized in some way, as hospital officials said it would.
I think its important to embrace history and our heritage, he said. We owe it to our citizens and veterans we cant leave history behind and turn the page.
County commissioner Tom Keigher, who wasnt invited to Thursdays unveiling, said hes getting phone calls, emails and Facebook messages from folks dissatisfied with the name change and Cheat Death slogan.
The name Gaston Memorial Hospital is too old-fashioned, guess we better start thinking of new names for the Lincoln Memorial, The Jefferson Memorial, and so on, he said in an email urging people to let the hospital administration know if they agree.
He called Cheat Death the absolute worst slogan a hospital could take sounds like an 80s heavy metal band.
Around the region, hospitals are rebranding. In February, Novant Health announced it was changing the names of its hospitals so that every name will start with Novant. It will be effective April 17.
Established in 1946, the private nonprofit Gaston Memorial Hospital honored World War II veterans. The county owns the land and leases the buildings and property to CaroMont for $1 per year. County commissioners appoint 13 of the 14 members of the hospital trustee board.
The 435-bed hospital anchors CaroMont Health, a health care system with seven affiliate companies including a network of 33 primary and specialty physician offices. With 4,000 employees, CaroMont is Gastons largest employer. The CaroMont name has been around since 2000.
Kelley said that the old name Gaston Memorial Hospital no longer reflects who we are and quite frankly who we have been the past 10 or more years.
People in and outside the community have a deep-seated and extremely negative opinion of the name, Kelley said. So negative, in fact, it is overshadowing not only CaroMont Health, but also all the good were doing here.
The other thing its doing is creating confusion. The majority of people dont know that Gaston Memorial Hospital and CaroMont Health are one in the same. That wont do for our flagship facility.
Focusing on future
Despite the name change, veterans will continue to be honored, he said. Theres already a large memorial to veterans in the courtyard off the main lobby and Kelley said a plaque with the Gaston Memorial name will also go up.
Were mindful of history, he said. And focused on the future.
The hospital announced a new purpose statement: To give every man, woman and child in Gaston County every opportunity to Cheat Death.
Kelley said all CaroMont employees would be asked to take and sign the oath.
Before making the changes, Kelley said CaroMont conducted in-depth research with patients and staff. Also, beginning a January retreat, he said hospital trustees have been given a detailed look at the plans.
Commissioners were less involved, he said. This is not something that requires county commissioners oversight and approval.
In launching the wellness movement, CaroMont will lead some very bold community outreach programs, Kelley said, adding that while it wont happen overnight this is a step in the right direction.
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