New children’s hospital faces legal action over ‘Phoenix’ name

Arizona hospital warns Dublin hospital not to leverage ‘our name and goodwill’

The Phoenix Children's Hospital in Arizona has warned Minister for Health Simon Harris it will be compelled to take legal action if the new national children's hospital in Dublin goes ahead with plans to use a similar name.

In a letter to Mr Harris, the US hospital said it was anxious the Dublin hospital would “refrain from leveraging our name, goodwill and earned reputation” and it would “pursue all available legal remedies” in the event the Irish hospital persisted with its plans.

Mr Harris in October announced that the new €1 billion national paediatric hospital, which is being developed on the campus of St James’s Hospital and which has been beset with delays over the years, will be known as Phoenix Children’s Hospital Ireland.

The Arizona hospital, based in the city of Phoenix, has been operating for 30 years and is one of the largest children’s hospitals in the US, employing more than 2,000 staff. Following Mr Harris’s announcement, the US facility contacted the Children’s Hospital Group in Dublin to express “serious concerns” about the use of the Phoenix name. “Upon hearing of the potential use of this name we immediately communicated our concerns and respectfully requested the group reconsider,” it said in its letter to the Minister last week.

Different jurisdiction

Following this communication, a spokeswoman for the group in Dublin said that while the US hospital had expressed “some level of concern”, they had also accepted the Irish hospital was in a different jurisdiction and registered in a different trademark region.

“We have agreed to work collaboratively as we develop our brand to assist in making our logo distinctive and help further distinguish the two different entities,” she said.

However, in the letter to the Minister on November 27th, the executive vice president of the Phoenix hospital David Higginson said after hearing the group intended to go ahead with the name it again communicated its concerns.

“We have informed the new children’s group that in the event it moves forward with this name we are compelled to pursue all available legal remedies.”

His hospital had received “troubling feedback” regarding the implications of the proposed use by the Dublin hospital of “our name”, he said.

“It has already become apparent that patients and the public are confusing our two organisations,” he said. “This unnecessary situation poses risks to those who rely upon our hospitals and to our respective reputations and creates needless legal exposures.”

He said he had asked the group not to go ahead with the name “out of respect for our reputation” and “the goodwill we have earned over more than 30 years”.

The new hospital group should not leverage the “earned reputation” of the established medical centre “in a manner that simply is not consistent with the standards of collegiality and probity that govern all of us in medicine”.

But Mr Higginson told Mr Harris if the group did go ahead with the name, “Phoenix Children’s Hospital will take whatever steps are necessary to protect its name, goodwill and the integrity of its reputation”.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said Mr Harris and the Government’s priority is getting “this very important project built and open”.

“The Minister will carefully consider the name put forward by the Children’s Hospital Group, along with the issues raised and the varied views expressed, and will finalise his thinking in the context of bringing this legislation through the Oireachtas in the New Year.

“The Minister has received correspondence from the Executive Vice President of Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Arizona in relation to the naming of the new children’s hospital. The Department will be responding directly to Phoenix Children’s Hospital Arizona.”

A spokeswoman for the National children’s hospital group said it was aware that the Minister had received correspondence from the Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Arizona. It said the Department of Health “will be responding directly to them.”