THE VILLE – What’s in a name?
Apparently a lot when when it comes to the historic Ville’s eponymous, venerable Homer G. Phillips Hospital.
It’s named for the African-American attorney responsible for the bond issue that birthed the former health care institution for black patients, and the training ground for black doctors and nurses.
The G. in the late attorney’s name is for Garland. “Garland” isn’t commonly known, used or spelled out. People simply say Homer G. Phillips Hospital.
People, however, don’t say “HGP” in calling or writing the name. Use of those initials by themselves isn’t recognized – not even by Google – as Homer G. Phillips.
Using those initials, Google spat out the Human Genome Project; and Healthcare Growth Partners, an investment banking and strategic advisory firm exclusively focused on the transformational Health IT market.
Not Homer G. Phillips.
Google did offer up HGP Hospital Corp.
That corporation name appears in Board Bill 103, also known as Healthworks Hospital Project, sponsored by Fifth Ward Alderwoman Tammika Hubbard.
In the completed version of the bill, HGP Hospital Corp., along with NS QALICB LLC, are authorized as additional co-developers with Northside Regeneration and Northside Urgent Care Property LLC.
In the summary of Board Bill 103, Healthworks Hospital Project is described as a three-bed hospital, expandable up to 103,000 square feet, with a 24-hour emergency room. The 123-page document points to the site between Cass and Jefferson avenues and 20th Street, where a sign and building rendering prominently reads “Homer G. Phillips Hospital.”
Not HGP Hospital Corp., or even Healthworks Hospital Project.
Since the hospital to be constructed at the designated site is now being called Homer G. Phillips, which wasn’t in the bill language, The NorthSider reached out to Hubbard for clarity but didn’t immediately receive a response.
The NorthSider, also without a response, reached out to Paul McKee through his attorney Darryl Piggee, who is listed as an officer in the role of secretary for HGP Hospital Corp.
Mayor Lyda Krewson, who signed off on the TIFF, didn’t know what the facility was going to be called, according to her spokesman, Jacob Long.
“There was no forehand knowledge that that was going to be the name,” said Long, noting that, generally, the city has no say in what you can name your business.
After learning that it was going to be called Homer G. Phillips Hospital, Long said, Krewson called the move “culturally insensitive.”
In the past few months, public outcry about the naming of the health care center hasn’t caused McKee, the Northside Regeneration developer, to back off of the name.
However, many residents with ties to the old hospital vow to keep Homer G. Phillips’ name off of the new health care facility.
At a Fourth Ward meeting Saturday where the former Homer G. Phillips hospital building sits, now being used as senior apartments, residents brainstormed ways in which to block the use of the name.“I think they think this is just going to go away,” said Julia Allen, a former nurse at the hospital and a member of the 4TheVille organization.
“If I have to, I will get a chair, go down there and sit in front of it with a sign,” Allen said. “That’s what I will do, and I think there’s a lot of people in the community that will go with me.”
One man, Myron Gray, executive director of GIA (God Is Able) Community Development Corporation, suggested looking into the naming rights.
On Jan. 13, Walle Amusa, owner of ADE Consulting, had filed two LLCs: Homer G. Phillips Hospital LLC and Homer G. Phillips Urgent Care LLC, according to the Missouri Secretary of State’s office. Amusa is a longtime advocate of the hospital and fought against its closing and in favor of facility updates afterwards.
The purposes for which the LLCs were organized state: “To protect the public service legacy and historic significance of Attorney Homer G. Phillips. The prevent the trivialization, misuse, commercialization and devaluation of his name, his life’s work and to restore public health care services to the indigent residents of the State of Missouri, especially in the City of St. Louis.”
Amusa said he had filed the LLCs because he had been unsuccessful in getting meetings with Hubbard and McKee.
“We have been involved in issues of Homer G. Phillips Hospital for a long time, and we are determined to sit at the table to talk about it,” Amusa said. “I’m not saying everybody is suspect and their motives should be questioned, but there has not been enough consultation in the process because just can’t truncate or trivialize the history and contributions of African Americans.”
Amusa suggested that the facility in Hubbard’s ward be named for Mary Ross, a former Fifth alderwoman, a leader who fought to keep the former Homer G. Phillips open. She also led fights for public health care in the city of St. Louis.
“She would be a perfect fit for naming a health care facility that’s going to be in the ward that she used to represent,” Amusa said.
That name would mean a lot, he said.