Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What's In A Name?

In the City of Hamilton, Ontario a movement is afoot from some Councilors to ensure the protection of the currently named Henderson Hospital, named after Nora-Francis Henderson, the first woman on Hamilton council and social activist. Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), who manage the operations of Henderson Hospital, received a gift of $20 million from Charles and Margaret Juravinski to aid in the redevelopment of Henderson Hospital. Overall, the Juravinski’s have contributed around $43 million to community health-care causes, including a major contribution to the neighbouring Juravinski Cancer Centre. In exchange for their kindness, HHS stated that the hospital will now be named the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre.
Under the new redevelopment project, due to be completed in summer 2010, the hospital will have expanded in size and resources. One could argue that it is a brand new hospital. And, not to be forgotten, HHS plans on naming a wing of the (re)new(ed) hospital in Henderson’s name. The curious point in all this is that this started some three years ago with nary a peep from neighbours and councilors regarding the name change. However now that they are drawing to completion, and most likely ceremonies are being planned and booked, folks are starting to voice their displeasure in changing the name.
City Councilors Tom Jackson, Terry Whitehead and Scott Duvall who rule the roost around the hospital grounds are taking up a fight with HHS begging them to keep Nora-Francis Henderson’s name alive on the front of the hospital. For the record, these same three were members of the ill-fated committee aimed at bringing the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton, of which included the allowance to sell the naming rights of Copps Coliseum (named after former Hamilton Mayor Victor Copps). From a political angle, one could assume that both the HHS and area Councilors failed to properly communicate the change to the community three years ago; however that would open a nice finger –pointing exercise not worthy of anyone’s time.
Named ‘public’ buildings are usually done so to honour, to recognize, or to brand a person or product/service; whether done so as a courtesy or as a sold proprietary license. The application of these ‘names’ seem to differ depending on the building applied. Sports facilities have a long-standing tradition in offering up the naming ‘rights’ to companies as a means to generate revenue for the host team. Libraries apply names in either recognition or through gift-giving. Hospitals on the other hand tend to be more representative of the community in which they reside (at least in Canada). A cursory view of the list of Canadian hospital names shows no ‘privately’ named hospitals. If we were to look at Ontario’s powerhouse of health care resources, Toronto we’d see that it is managed by the University Health Network (UHN). They once received a single donation of $37 million towards the development of cardiac research at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, situated within the Toronto General Hospital.
So was it wrong to offer the name change to the Juravinski’s in return for their contribution? Probably.
Did HHS communicate to the politicians the change? Yep.
Did the politicians voice their concern at the time? My guess would be no, and I’d say it was because they saw the value and the reasoning at the time. But now the phones are ringing from disgruntled citizens expressing their displeasure, and as a habit they go out looking for a fight…instead of communicating the facts from the start.
It is indeed sad that the Henderson name will be removed from the front of the hospital, and a new name will grace its place. It’s a wonder that HHS didn’t look to give the location a new name like Hamilton Mountain Hospital, with the Henderson Wing & the Juravinski Centre, in order to promote Hamilton. It would appear that HHS moved too quickly in the offer of the name in return for their generousity, and now the Juravinski’s are looking like the bad guys. As it stands now, a precedent as been set for future contributors, who are now going to be looking for something more than just their name on a wall within a larger institution.

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