On January 25, 2017, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (the "Ministry") shared its proposed Hospital Naming Directive (the "Proposed Directive") with hospitals in Ontario. Pursuant to the Proposed Directive, hospitals will be required to obtain written approval from the Ministry prior to changing the name of:
- hospital corporations,
- hospital sites,
- individual hospital buildings in cases where the building comprises all or substantially all of a hospital site; and
- alliances, partnerships, and other associations between or among hospital corporations.
Local Health Integration Networks ("LHINs") will be responsible for ensuring that hospitals funded by the LHIN meet the requirements of the Proposed Directive.
The Ministry states that its purpose for proposing such Proposed Directive is to encourage hospitals to engage the public and its patient population in naming decisions, to guarantee that hospital names properly express the functions of hospitals as publicly-supported institutions that operate within a publicly-funded health care system and to reinforce the public's confidence in the health care system.
The Proposed Directive follows a memorandum sent by the Ministry to all hospitals in August 2015 on the same subject matter.
Subject to specific requirements set out in the Corporations Act (Ontario) and the Business Names Act (Ontario), hospitals currently have the ability to select their own names. However, once the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010 is proclaimed, certain amendments to the Public Hospitals Act (Ontario) will come into effect and require hospitals to obtain consent from the Ministry prior to implementing corporate changes, including new names.
A General Overview of the Proposed Directive
(a) Naming Criteria
Firstly, the proposed new name cannot contain the name of a corporate, family or individual donor.
Secondly, the proposed new name must include one or more of the following:
- the geographic location of the hospital;
- the hospital's service or clinical mandate;
- the patient population of the hospital;
- the culture or heritage of the patient population of the hospital; or
- the history of the hospital.
Any existing obligations to register names or file letters patent with Service Ontario are still required, and must be conducted subsequent to obtaining consent from the Ministry under the Proposed Directive.
(b) Submission Process
A hospital must complete a submission to the Ministry for approval that contains, among other things, the following:
- the full current name (if applicable) and the proposed new name;
- the rationale for the name change (if applicable) and for the proposed new name;
- a letter from the hospital CEO and a copy of board minutes (or other evidence) authenticating that the proposed new name has been approved by the relevant hospital board;
- a description of the consultations undertaken with the public regarding the proposed new name and the feedback received; and
- any other information requested by the Ministry following a review of the Submission.
(c) Approval Process
A hospital must seek approval of its submission from its respective LHIN. Upon such approval, the LHIN must forward the submission, together with a letter of approval from the LHIN CEO, to the Ministry. The Ministry will review the submission and communicate its decision in writing to the LHIN.
When deciding if the proposed new name is acceptable, the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care [sic] will consider any factors he or she deems relevant, including whether the new name gives the perception that a donor will unduly influence the hospital or whether it will undermine the public confidence in Ontario's hospitals or health care system.
The Ministry has invited the LHINs, the Ontario Hospital Association and the hospitals to provide feedback regarding the Proposed Directive.
If the Ministry moves forward with the Proposed Directive, it will be interesting to see what effect, if any, it has on future donations received by hospital foundations. Another consideration is whether the naming directive will affect future corporate transactions between hospitals.
 We note the inconsistency in the Proposed Directive between the authority of the Ministry and the Minister.