Houston County’s largest employer is getting a new identity.

The Houston County Health Care Authority announced Thursday that Southeast Alabama Medical Center and its related subsidiaries will be known as Southeast Health. The organization will implement the name change beginning Oct. 1, but it will take some time to update all references and signage, said Mark Stewart, SAMC director of public relations.

The move reflects the expansion of SAMC and its services during the past 60 years. SAMC became the first free-standing hospital in the country to build its own medical school and has developed several healthcare provider networks – including a regional stroke care network based on telemedicine and a Level III neonatal intensive care unit.

“Southeast Health more accurately reflects the evolution of Southeast Alabama Medical Center (SAMC) during the last 60 years from a community hospital to a comprehensive health system and regional referral center,” said Claudia Hall, SAMC’s vice president of marketing and strategic planning. “We continue to expand our footprint, which includes adding complex clinical programs that make SAMC, now Southeast Health, a regional destination for care.”

Currently the hospital system services 13 counties in the tri-state area, including five in Florida and Georgia, Stewart said. Some of the services offered have begun to make impacts outside those counties, which facilitated the need for a newer, more regionalized moniker.

The Houston County Health Care Authority, an appointed board that oversees SAMC’s operations, began discussing a potential name change about 15 months ago. The board hired a Birmingham company to conduct a study on the name change, which included interviews of locals regarding the current name and any potential name change.

Stewart said the board “felt comfortable” with moving forward with a rebranding after receiving the results.

While exact figures for the name change were not immediately available, the rebranding “certainly (has) an investment into it,” Stewart said. Both external and internal signage will have to change at SAMC and all its related clinics, and the organization’s website and email systems will have to be updated to reflect the switch.

The hospital maintains its own print shop, so that will help the system save some money, Stewart said.

The main hospital employs more than 2,300 people locally, making it easily the top single employer in Houston County.

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Follow Jeremy Wise on Twitter @DEwiseTrojan.

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