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Carris Health changing name to CentraCare – West Central Tribune

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WILLMAR — Carris Health has announced that it will be changing its name to CentraCare, beginning June 1.

Carris Health was created in 2018, a partnership of health care providers in Willmar, New London and Redwood Falls. It has operated as a CentraCare subsidiary with an emphasis on rural health care.

CentraCare is a nonprofit organization with hospitals in eight cities and more than 30 clinics, when Carris Health is included.

Cindy Firkins Smith

Contributed / CentraCare

The name change reflects a cohesive focus as Carris Health and CentraCare have developed shared processes and strategies, including creating a Rural Health Division developed in 2021, according to a news release from CentraCare.

“CentraCare and Carris Health were already connected through our common culture, purpose and mission,” Ken Holmen, president and CEO, said in the release. “Now, we will also be connected through one unified name — CentraCare.”

Dr. Cindy Firkins Smith, senior vice president of rural health for CentraCare, said the partnership has helped providers give their patients “the right care, at the right time, in the right place.”

Smith is a former CEO of Affiliated Community Medical Centers, one of the clinics that joined with other providers to form Carris Health. She is a dermatologist who has practiced in Willmar for 31 years.

When she was named CEO, she said, she was asked to “find a future” for ACMC. “Our ability to survive was limited,” she said.

The future would be in working together to continue serving patients, she said. In researching potential partners, she said, CentraCare emerged from the field.

When Carris Health began, she did not expect that the organizational structure would change again, but few people anticipated a pandemic either, she said.

“COVID changed our vision and our purpose,” she said.

During the pandemic, having that “nimble partnership” helped rural providers care for their patients. It gave Carris Health and CentraCare a larger base to take care of their patients, she said.

Without the partnership, it would have been more difficult for the Willmar medical community to care for as many COVID-19 patients close to home as it did.

“It ensured we could take care of as many patients as we did,” she said, and it helped more patients survive.

Having separate entities with their own policies and procedures in place could sometimes be a barrier to working together, however.

The new Rural Health Division “is Carris on steroids,” Smith said, and its presence is a sign of CentraCare’s commitment to rural health care and its regional hospitals and clinics.

The public will begin seeing changes in signage, appointment reminders, email addresses and patient correspondence beginning June 1. The transition to the single name is expected to take about a year.

Smith said the name change is not expected to result in the loss of jobs in Willmar or at other sites.

Something else learned during the pandemic is that employees can be in different communities and still work together, she added.

WCT.STOCK.CarrisHealth.0025.jpgTaken March 12, 2020. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune

Erica Dischino

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