“What is in a name?”
For administrators at Branson-based Skaggs Regional Medical Center, the answer is a new beginning.
On Nov. 29, the Skaggs board of directors voted to adopt the name Cox Medical Center Branson, effective Jan. 1.
The decision is on the heels of a strategic partnership with CoxHealth, finalized in September, in which the Springfield health system would become the parent company of Skaggs – a move designed to shore up the hospital’s finances.
CoxHealth is prepared to make a $25 million to $35 million gift to the Skaggs Foundation after the merger is officially approved and invest a sum of more than $120 million – $60 million of which is dedicated to liabilities such as debt and payroll, $36 million for capital expenses, and $25 million for new facilities – during the next five to seven years. Skaggs sought a financial partner after five consecutive years of operational losses.
When Skaggs, a Branson health system that operates 26 clinics across six sites and employs roughly 1,100, first considered identifying a strategic partner, hospital spokeswoman Michelle Leroux said its leaders did not want to change the name.
They’ve since found many people receptive to adopting the Cox moniker, she said.
“We thought we were doing what was in the interest of the community,” Leroux said. “When we announced that CoxHealth would be the partner, that may be the reason most of the community came forward and said, ‘Hey, we’d like to be on board with this.’”
Leroux said weeks after the announcement and following much feedback from sources inside and outside the hospital, it spent $7,500 to hire Springfield-based research firm H2R Marketing to conduct a survey of residents to see how they felt about a possible name change. She declined to provide details of the survey but said the majority of respondents favored a name change.
“It was a (system) they were familiar with,” she said. “It was a name they recognized, and it was a quality of health care they knew they could trust.”
The community, Leroux said, likely wouldn’t have reacted the same way had Skaggs’ other partner finalist, Brentwood, Tenn.-based LifePoint Hospitals, been selected because it is not a known local quantity.
Laurie Duff, vice president of corporate communications for CoxHealth, said the two partners have only been talking about integrating their systems since around mid-November. In October, CoxHealth CEO Steve Edwards said the partners would not begin the work to merge their systems until they felt comfortable the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice would approve the deal. Duff said federal regulators have not reported any major objections, and by mid-December, CoxHealth should officially receive FTC approval.
“We’ve really only had about three weeks where we could talk about some of these things, so our focus is on the business of integrating our operations,” Duff said.
Under the deal, Skaggs keeps its board of directors, current employees, management and medical staff. The agreement, Edwards said, does not amount to an acquisition; rather Skaggs will operate as a subsidiary of CoxHealth. Duff said Skaggs’ CEO William Mahoney and Chief Financial Officer David Strong will become members of CoxHealth’s senior leadership team.
Leroux said most of the signage changes would occur after the first of the year. Skaggs plans to select a firm to manage the name conversion before Dec. 25, and beginning Jan. 1, vinyl wraps would surface on major signs and billboards. Leroux said permanent sign changes would likely be in place by June, and officials from Cox and Skaggs would get together after the first of the year to determine a time line and the cost of permanent sign changes. “Then we will start moving into more detail with what will happen with the clinics’ names and things like that,” Leroux said.
Duff said CoxHealth’s in-house print shop will handle changes to letterhead, name badges and business cards. Though Duff declined to disclose estimated costs, she said marketing the Cox name in the Branson area is also a priority.
“We’re looking at doing some newspaper and radio messages because it is important for the community to know we are together,” Duff said. “Our goal is that on Jan. 1, you will see at least temporary exterior signage and updated billboards and some of those advertising messages.”
Duff said Cox officials are beginning to broach topics such as integrating their supply chains to save on expenses. Integrating information technology is another top priority for the systems as they begin this transition.
“We are just now beginning to hit the ground running,” she said.
Duff said hospital leaders are developing a plan to recognize Marion B. Skaggs, the Branson hospital’s original donor, as a way to show respect for its history.
“We don’t want any part of the history to be lost with this,” Duff said.
Leroux said a letter drafted by M.B. Skaggs to the hospital’s board of directors in the early 1960s was discovered earlier this year, indicating he wished to downplay the Skaggs name in connection with the hospital. According to Skaggs.net
, the hospital opened its doors in 1950, and took on the Skaggs name to honor his efforts to ensure health care for the residents of Branson.[[In-content Ad]]