SALEM — North Shore Medical Center is changing its name back to Salem Hospital, with a touch of Mass General Brigham thrown in.
The hospital recently announced that it will henceforth be known as Mass General Brigham Salem Hospital. The change is part of a branding strategy to emphasize the two well-known Boston hospitals — Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s — that lead the large health care system that includes Salem Hospital.
“It’s just clean,” Salem Hospital CEO Dr. David Roberts said. “The relationship becomes obvious in the title.”
Salem Hospital, which moved to its current location on Highland Avenue in 1917, changed its name to North Shore Medical Center in 1993, when the organization included multiple hospitals and facilities across the North Shore. But many of those facilities — including Union Hospital in Lynn, North Shore Children’s Hospital, Shaughnessy-Kaplan Rehabilitation Hospital and the North Shore Cancer Center — have either closed or been consolidated.
Salem state Rep. Paul Tucker, who grew up in Salem, said the name change is a good idea, but added, “To be honest with you, most of us have never stopped calling it Salem Hospital.”
“It’s kind of getting back to its roots, I guess,” Tucker said. “It’s OK to have a great identification with the city. We’re very proud to have a great medical institution here. With so many mergers over the last 10-15 years in health care, it’s kind of nice that it’s simply Salem Hospital.”
Salem Hospital has been part of the same hospital system as Mass General and Brigham and Women’s since 1996, and its relationship with Mass General in particular goes back even further, Roberts said. The system changed its name from Partners HealthCare to Mass General Brigham in 2019 in an attempt to capitalize on the name recognition of the two Boston hospitals. Now it is extending that branding strategy to all of its affiliated hospitals, including Salem Hospital.
“We’ve had these deep, long-standing relationships that were not manifested in the name Partners, so the average person on the North Shore is not aware of these collaborative relationships,” Roberts said. “If your name is Mass General Brigham Salem Hospital, that’s very clear.”
Salem will be one of the first hospitals in the Mass General Brigham system to undergo the branding change, along with Newton-Wellesley Hospital and Mass Eye & Ear. Others will follow in the months ahead, according to a hospital press release.
Roberts said the name change will begin showing up on Salem Hospital’s website in the next few weeks, while the signs on the hospital campus will change in the next few months. The new health care center that replaced Union Hospital in Lynn has already been branded as the Mass General Brigham Healthcare Center.
North Shore Physicians Group, which is affiliated with Salem Hospital and Mass General Brigham, will retain its name.
Integrated health care
The branding change is part of an effort to build an “integrated health care system” among Mass General Brigham hospitals, according to the company. Roberts acknowledged that Salem Hospital could lose some autonomy and local control, but said it’s all in the best interests of patients.
“You give up a little bit but I think the benefit is enormous for our patients,” he said.
Roberts gave the example of a new system that allows doctors anywhere in the Mass General Brigham system to read an X-ray taken in Salem.
“That’s a huge advance for patients,” he said. “They can go where it’s convenient for them and they know it will be read by an expert in the system.”
Roberts said the emphasis on an integrated system does not mean there will be layoffs in Salem. North Shore Medical Center laid off 160 workers in 2017. Roberts said the hospital is now looking to hire people.
“We are recruiting like mad,” he said. “Our hospital is very busy and we’re growing.”
Roberts said Salem Hospital is looked upon favorably within the Mass General Brigham system for its commitment to communities of color and its emphasis on serving mental health needs. With the opening of the Epstein Center for Behavioral Health at Salem Hospital in 2019, up to 30% of the hospital’s beds are devoted to mental health, he said.
As for the pandemic, Roberts said, Salem Hospital has about 25 COVID-19 patients, double the total from a few weeks ago but down from its highest totals of more than 100 last March. He urged people to remain vigilant.
“If we could just double down on distancing and masking and hand-washing for another month,” he said. “Vaccines are amping up. We’re going to get to the sweet spot pretty quickly. I’m just telling people, not today but a month from now.”
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, email@example.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.