TARPON SPRINGS – Two months after city voters decide the fate of a proposed 30-year extension of the lease covering Florida Hospital North Pinellas, the hospital will get a name makeover.
When representatives for Florida Hospital North Pinellas and its parent company, the not-for-profit Adventist Health System, met with city officials in June to discuss the proposed lease extension, a potential name change for the South Pinellas Avenue facility was a key topic of discussion.
Along with 30-year extension of the current lease, which is set to expire in 2040 unless voters approve the extension on Nov. 6, Adventist requested the ability to rebrand the hospital as a condition of the agreement. City commissioners, however, expressed concern about removing the name of Helen Ellis from the building.
Helen Ellis, who died in 1989, was a longtime member of the hospital’s volunteer auxiliary. Her husband, banker and philanthropist A.L. “Al” Ellis, who died in 1995, made a series of charitable donations to improve the facility in the 1980s. In appreciation, what had been known for years as Tarpon Springs General Hospital became Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital.
After Florida Hospital took over the operation of the hospital under the lease agreement with the city, which owns the hospital’s buildings and the land on which they stand, the name Helen Ellis remained on the exterior.
In line with the proposed lease extension, the hospital’s façade set to undergo a major transformation as part of a $30 million-dollar expansion and remodel project.
Florida Hospital North Pinellas President and CEO Jason Dunkel has assured commissioners on three separate occasions that the Ellis name would remain on the building in some capacity following the completion of the project.
Last week Adventist, which has nearly 50 hospital campuses and more than 80,000 employees, announced in a press release that all its wholly owned hospitals, including the one in Tarpon Springs, and hundreds of its care centers would be rebranded as AdventHealth beginning Jan. 2, 2109.
Adventist Health System is operated by the Seventh Day Adventist Church and is one of the nation’s largest health care systems.
“We are transforming to be a more consumer-focused health care system to better meet the needs of those we care for and the communities we serve,” Terry Shaw, president and CEO for Adventist Health System, said in the release. “Becoming AdventHealth allows us to be a fully integrated and distinguishable health system across all aspects of the care continuum, while also speaking to our Christian healing ministry, message of wholeness and our rich Seventh-day Adventist roots.”
Gary Thurber, board chairman for Adventist Health System, added, “We want our hospitals and care sites to be places where people can experience hope as well as healing, and the AdventHealth name so appropriately expresses that sense of expectation and optimism while also connecting with our promise of wholeness and our rich faith-based heritage.”
While the release did not mention the inclusion of the Ellis name at its Tarpon Springs hospital, a spokesperson confirmed the name would remain.
“When we change names, we still intend to honor the intention with the Ellis family to represent them on the building,” Richelle Hoenes-Ahearn, director of corporate communications for Florida Hospital’s West Florida division, said via email.
Mayor Chris Alahouzos said he appreciated the fact that Dunkel and the Adventist Health System officials remained true to their word.
“During the discussions about the lease extension, we expressed how important it was to us to keep Mrs. Ellis’ name affiliated with the hospital in some way, and I’m happy to hear Mr. Dunkel and the Adventist Health System officials have agreed to follow through with their promise,” he said. “The Ellis name is an important part of the hospital’s history, and myself and my fellow commissioners were adamant the name remain associated with the facility as long it is operating in Tarpon Springs.”