ST. GEORGE — Intermountain Healthcare announced Thursday that it is changing the name of Dixie Regional Medical Center to Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital.
Updated July 16, 5:15 p.m.: Comments from hospital officials, reasons behind the name change.
The name change will be effective Jan. 1.
The head administrator of the hospital said during an afternoon news conference that the name change is coming about not because of what the word “Dixie” means to those in St. George, but because of what it means to those outside Southern Utah.
“The meaning of Dixie is not clear for everyone. The word Dixie still has a beautiful meaning for those who live here. For those outside this area, it does not have clear connotations,” Mitch Cloward, administrator of Dixie Regional Medical Center, said during an afternoon Zoom news conference announcing the name change. “For people outside this area, it can be offensive. A hospital needs to be a place where all patients feel they can be cared for.”
There have been some calls to remove the “Dixie” name from sites in Southern Utah in past years, amplified more recently since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, which spurred Black Lives Matter protests. There have also been protests by those against the removal of the “Dixie” usage in Southern Utah.
Cloward confirmed that the name change was in the works long before the current revisiting of names, symbols and statues dedicated to figures around the Southern Confederacy and slavery.
“This topic has not only come up for months but years,” Cloward said. “This is something we haven’t taken lightly. We know the word Dixie has tremendous meaning for those who lived here.”
Hospital administrators also cited the overall effort by the hospital’s parent company of Intermountain Healthcare to rename hospitals based on their geographic location. Such was the case when a little further north, Valley View Medical Center was renamed Cedar City Hospital in 2015.
The hospital in St. George was opened at its original main location at 400 East in 1952 as Dixie Pioneer Memorial Hospital, named for the first Latter-day Saint missionaries that settled that settled in the St. George area in the 1850s.
The area’s growth and that of the hospital itself got its first name change in 1975 to Dixie Medical Center. Further growth necessitated the addition of the word “Regional” to the name in 1990 and a much larger main campus on River Road in 2003.
According to the Washington County Historical Society, the area was nicknamed as “Utah’s Dixie” after LDS President Brigham Young recruited 38 families from the Southern United States to plant cotton in the region.
Outside the region, the word “Dixie” has become synonymous with honoring the Confederate States of America, which attempted to secede from the United States over President Abraham Lincoln’s drive to end the slavery of Black Americans.
It is that connotation that hospital officials said has caused problems when trying to recruit staff and build the hospital’s reputation nationally and globally.
“As I stepped into the role, I had a chance to meet with physicians as we recruited them. Some are coming for the first time, and occasionally I would speak with physicians (that asked) about the name,” said Dr. Patrick Carroll, medical director of the hospital. “Using the St. George name provides clarity and will aid in recruitment.”
The name change won’t be overnight. Some red tape, including with federal Medicaid programs, as well as just the physical changes to signage throughout both the River Road and 400 East campuses, mean the Dixie Regional name will at least live on through the rest of 2020.
“We have a checklist,” Cloward said. “There are a lot of boxes to check.”
Cloward wouldn’t disclose the cost of the name change, other than to say it will be done as “efficiently and as economically as possible.”
As a private entity, the hospital doesn’t necessarily answer to a voting public or politicians. However, Brian Chadaz, the chairman of the Board of Trustees of Dixie Regional, said he has met with St. George Mayor Jon Pike and reached agreement on the St. George name being to the benefit of both the hospital and the city.
“That’s one of the great things is the name St. George has gained wider recognition,” Chadaz said. “There’s going to be some great synergy that will benefit the hospital and the city.”
The hospital administrators said the decision to remove “Dixie” from the hospital’s name is strictly a hospital-related decision.
“There’s a lot of entities in the area that are small businesses and they’re going to have to make their own decision,” Chadaz said. “For some, they may keep that name. They are free to choose.”
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