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Most on board with new hospital name

The unveiling of the Alomere Health name brought smiles to many of the faces outside of Douglas County Hospital Friday morning. (Ross Evavold / Echo Press)1 / 3
CEO Carl Vaagenes raises his hand shortly before revealing that Alomere Health will be the new name for Douglas County Hospital and its partners. (Ross Evavold / Echo Press)2 / 3
A group of employees react after learning that they are now working for Alomere Health Friday morning. (Ross Evavold / Echo Press)3 / 3

Over the last half-century or so, Douglas County Hospital has made an impact on a lot of people's lives. They have been born there, worked there, visited patients there or been a patient themselves.

Some even fell into all of those groups.

Changing a name that carried great meaning for all of those people wasn't going to be easy. Hospital CEO Carl Vaagenes knew it couldn't just be sprung on those who grew up calling it Douglas County Hospital, so he began preparing people for the change, talking to employees about it, and letting the public know through a front-page story on these pages last month. All of which combined to create considerable interest in the move.

"Oh, my gosh, I have fielded a lot of questions about it," said Marilyn Craig, an education coordinator with the hospital. She thought it was a good time to make a change, as did Bryce Prellwitz, a manager of medical oncology.

"We served patients from over 100 zip codes over the last year," he said. "A county hospital doesn't really encompass all that we do."

All of Vaagenes' preparations seemed to softened the blow, and when the new name was unveiled at a public ceremony Friday morning outside of the main entrance to the hospital, it was met largely with support.

"I love it. I love it," said Emma von Felden, an information control officer, said of Alomere Health, which as of Friday was the new name of her employer. "It's unique, I think it's classy, and it's heartfelt."

Vaagenes confirmed that Alomere is unique, since it isn't an existing word. He broke down the reasoning behind the name, explaining that the first three letters signify nurture or strengthen, and the last four represent lake. It didn't go unnoticed that the first two letters of the new name are also the first two letters in Alexandria.

Bill Flaig, who was the Douglas County Hospital administrator for 28 years before retiring in 2011, liked the name change.

"It's simple, straightforward and different," he said. "It will take some time to get used to, but I like it."

Flaig added that the change reflects the hospital's growth. "It serves more than just Douglas County," he said.

Current employees also came down in favor of the selection.

"I really do like it — the lake part, and also the Alo part," said Kathy Morton, who worked at Alexandria Clinic until it too became Alomere on Friday. "I like it a lot."

Sister Patrice, who said a prayer during the program Friday, stated afterward that she was impressed with how much work went into choosing Alomere.

"It's not just a name," she said. "It's meaningful, and it's very well thought out. It speaks to who the hospital is — we're here to give meaningful care to people."

Betty Haskins doesn't work at Alomere, but she comes there as part of a support group for people who have undergone bariatric surgery. She has another connection, saying that her father bought the Lady of Mercy Hospital on Cedar Street from the nuns around 1970.

"You know, I like it," Haskins said of Alomere. "It was kind of a shock at first, but the meaning behind it speaks volumes."

News Editor Al Edenloff contributed to this story.

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