Originally created 10/20/06

Ceremony recognizes transition



Winston Tweedy took his wife to St. Joseph Hospital on Thursday to get some tests, and while he was waiting, he wandered outside and ended up bearing witness at a historic moment for the hospital.

The hospital held an outdoor ceremony to commemorate the transition of the Catholic hospital from Ascension Health to Triad Hospitals Inc. and a consortium of the hospital's medical staff. And at the end of the ceremony, Mr. Tweedy decided to speak up and add his own tribute.

"I'm not ashamed to confess, thank God that they saved my life," said Mr. Tweedy, 57, who was brought to St. Joseph three years ago after he collapsed. "I thought I was gone. They brought me in and brought me back and saved my life."

His was not the only emotional address as longtime staff and board members honored the legacy the hospital will leave behind and the service of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Three sisters still will work in the health system, said nurse case manager Sister Fran Voivedich.

Opened in 1952 by the order as the first private Catholic hospital in Augusta, more than 65,000 babies were born there and more than 12,000 patients found comfort in its hospice, said Keith Kreager, the chairman of the board of directors.

"When we look back on the history of St. Joseph Hospital, we can only say, 'Oh what a gift we have given,'" Mr. Kreager said.

The actual transition of ownership is scheduled for Nov. 1 and the Triad partnership is still contemplating a new name, which will include input from a new board of directors that is being assembled, said Janie Sinacore-Jaberg, the Triad executive on site. The company has promised infusions of capital and will make a significant economic contribution by keeping the facility going, said Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver, who serves on the board of St. Joseph's foundation.

"Ultimately, it will lead to more jobs, which is exciting," he said.

And the new Triad group will keep on the current employees, who managed to continue winning awards for quality even during the difficult sales transition, said Interim CEO/President Elaine Comeau, who will be leaving.

"It is the people that make this hospital what it is," she said. "The name will change but St. Joseph Hospital will stay the same."

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.