Eric Goldman, acting chief executive officer and chief operating officer of Columbia Hospital in West Palm Beach, Fla., said he thinks his could be the only hospital owned by what was until last week Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. that still has "Columbia" in its name.
If it is not the only one, it's one of very few, said Jeff Prescott, spokesman for the company that's now called HCA-The Healthcare Co.
Goldman said the hospital will not change its name, despite the parent corporation's announcement last week that it is ditching its Columbia identity.
For the West Palm Beach hospital, five name changes in its 25-year history is enough. So while most of the for-profit chain's roughly 200 hospitals removed Columbia from their names and signs in 1998 and 1999 as the company abandoned its branding strategy in the wake of a federal probe, the Florida hospital did not.
"We figured it's in our best interest to keep it where it is and not confuse the public any more," Goldman said last week. "And being called `Hospital' wasn't really an option."
The new moniker was announced last week by Thomas Frist Jr., M.D., chairman and chief executive officer. He described the change as going "back to the future."
The new name is only a slight twist on the name of one of Columbia's corporate predecessors, Hospital Corporation of America, which Frist and his father, Thomas Frist Sr., M.D., founded in Nashville in 1968. HCA merged with Columbia Healthcare Corp. in 1994 to form the current company.
Beginning this week, the company will be traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "HCA" rather than "COL."
The name change, Frist told shareholders, is partly a tribute to his father and should have no direct effect on the company's hospitals or their names.
"We are doing this to reach back to our heritage," he said, adding, "but it's not going back to Hospital Corporation of America."
Frist's announcement of the name change at last week's annual shareholders' meeting came as no surprise. Ever since he took the reins in July 1997--in the wake of a highly publicized government probe into the company that culminated in the announcement of a $745 million partial settlement two weeks ago--he had said the company would eventually change its name, and that "HCA" was likely to be part of it.
While the company is using the name change as an opportunity to polish an image tarnished by the federal investigation, Goldman said his hospital has had nothing but positive associations with its Columbia identity.
"The corporation felt strongly about changing the name of the company, and we're obviously supportive of that," he said. "We're just extremely happy they've decided to let us keep this name locally, so we can avoid any distractions from doing the same thing we've been doing for many years, providing healthcare locally."
Also at the shareholder meeting, Frist said he expected the company to be able to negotiate a final settlement with the federal government "over the coming months."
The company's partial settlement, still contingent on more approvals by U.S. Justice Department officials and resolution of a separate criminal probe, dealt with allegations that the company billed too much for laboratory services and home healthcare and engaged in DRG upcoding.