Whidbey General Hospital board to vote on new name

Whidbey General Hospital commissioners are expected to vote on a new name next week.

CEO Geri Forbes announced the change at a meeting in Langley last week, but the decision still needs to be formally approved by the board. The decision is set for a vote at the commissioners’ next regular meeting at 7 a.m. Monday, Feb. 8 in Conference Room A and B at the hospital.

“I’m really excited about it,” said Commissioner Grethe Cammermeyer, South Whidbey’s representative on the board.

The name will highlight “health” rather than “illness” but also makes clear all the services and clinics that are currently under the Whidbey General umbrella. The organization has eight clinics and various services each with different names. This brings them all together.

The proposed name was announced as WhidbeyHealth (one word),  though hospital officials have since clarified that WhidbeyHealth isn’t the whole name; it’s the descriptor that will precede individual names all of the organization’s facilities.

“In retrospect, we should have made something clearer: when Geri [Forbes] said we are changing our name to WhidbeyHealth, the ‘we’ is our entire family of locations and services, not just the hospital,” wrote hospital spokesman Keith Mack, in an email to The Record. “We are simply unifying everything under one name.”

For example, the actual hospital in Coupeville will be WhidbeyHealth Medical Center, and clinics and outpatient services, will have names such as WhidbeyHealth Primary Care or WhidbeyHealth Women’s Care.

“WhidbeyHealth will be the ‘umbrella’ name over all of them,” Mack wrote.

It has also become clear that the renaming effort began years ago, prior to the arrival of Forbes. It began under former CEO Tom Tomasino.

What remains unclear is the cost of the rebranding effort. Chief Financial Advisor Ron Telles was out of town this week and could not be reached for comment, but Accounting Manager Jennifer Reed said the price tag is difficult to calculate as there is no single “rebranding” budget. The cost is spread out among a series of department budgets, such as public relations.

Reed is calculating a total at The Record’s request but it was not available as of press time on Friday. She emphasized that the hospital is making every effort to minimize costs, such as using up existing stationery and printed materials with old names and logos.

“We’re really being conscientious,” she said.

Renaming public agencies can be an expensive endeavor, and a contentious public process. The Seattle Public Library made headlines the past year when they proposed a rebranding — they wanted to change the name to Seattle Public Libraries. According to the Seattle Times, they spent $365,000 to study the change and planned to spend another $570,000 on implementation, which would have totaled $935,000.

Reed said the tab at Whidbey General won’t even come close to that estimate.

Cammermeyer said she hadn’t heard an estimate yet, but expects that financial details will be among the information presented to the board during next week’s meeting.

“I’m sure we’ll be talking about that on Monday,” she said.