Worried that its 30-year-old name carries some misleading or negative connotations, the Baltimore County General Hospital has decided to rename itself the Northwest Hospital Center, effective in June.
"Our name is not a problem with people who live in the community and know us well," said hospital President Robert W. Fischer. "But trying to attract those who don't know us, or new residents, can be difficult."
For starters, he said, " 'Baltimore County' doesn't appropriately describe our service area, since we also draw patients from Baltimore City, Howard County and Carroll County."
The word "county," he said, might also suggest that the hospital is run by the government, which it is not. "In many other states, it conjures up low quality, a poor medical staff and poor facilities," Mr. Fischer said.
That perception hurts in two ways, he said: It hobbles out-of-state recruitment of people with needed skills, and it causes some out-of-state health insurers to exclude the 240-bed hospital from their health maintenance organizations and preferred provider organizations because they think it is a public hospital.
Scratch "general," too. "The word 'general' is old-fashioned and tends to label you only as an inpatient facility," Mr. Fischer said. A new outpatient center, part of a $13.5 million construction-and-renovation project, will open next spring.
The word "hospital," at least, still works. "We are a first-class hospital," he said, "with a third-class name. We are confident the new name will more accurately reflect who we are, what we are and the goals we want to accomplish."
This is the third name change for the hospital at 5401 Old Court Road, said Sheri Harris, a hospital spokeswoman. It was established in 1962 as the Liberty Court Rehabilitation Center. In April 1963, it assumed a broader mission and became Baltimore County Hospital. Eight months later, it became a nonprofit organization and was renamed the Baltimore County General Hospital.