Clearing the Smoke at Kaiser Permanente

posted on November 20, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

“Once you made it inconvenient, I finally took steps to quit.”
– Former smoker, employee at Kaiser Permanente, 1980s.

Medical professional at Kaiser Permanente smoking a pipe and inspecting an X-ray, circa 1960

It wasn’t that long ago that cigarettes were an accepted part of the cultural landscape. It’s well-known that tobacco companies used to promote endorsements from physicians (although none from Permanente Medical Group doctors), and smoking in hospitals was typical, Kaiser Permanente facilities included.

A 1960s brochure from the Kaiser Permanente hospital in Fontana, Calif., cautioned patients that “Bedding can burn. Be careful with cigarettes and matches.” Staff housekeepers in many offices complained that one of their most common problems was fires in waste cans, because people would dump cigarette butts that weren’t completely put out. As medical evidence about tobacco’s harm piled up, however, it became clear that the smoking habit should not be part of the environment in health care facilities.

Kaiser Permanente first drove smoking out of its facilities in the 1980s. At first, the offices were smoke-free, then whole buildings. On January 1, 1987, a no-smoking policy went into effect in all Kaiser Permanente facilities throughout the Northwest Region. But people still went outside to smoke.

Anxious prospective fathers’ ashtray, “Dream Hospital” newsreel, 1953

Smoking was banned from all Southern California medical centers and facilities starting January 1, 2000, making Kaiser Permanente the first major health care organization in the country to adopt such a sweeping policy.

There’s good evidence that the harder you make it for people to smoke, the more likely they are to quit.

One example comes from a Kaiser Permanente office building in the Portland area in the mid-1980s. A designated smoking shelter had been set up outside of an office building to keep smokers out the rain. But to make a point, a large crane was brought in and removed the structure for a photo opportunity. They unbolted it and lifted it off, a clear message that a haven for smokers was really gone, and they were not going to be able to light up there any longer.

Kaiser Permanente Fontana hospital patient caution regarding smoking in hospital room, circa 1960

Grudgingly, the smokers moved out to the curbs. One employee commented, “You know, I might have still been smoking, but once you made it inconvenient, I finally took steps to quit. What am I doing walking out in the rain to do this, this is ridiculous.”

Current practices to discourage smoking, beyond signage, include features at facilities that encourage healthy activities such as walking paths and outdoor exercise stations.

Now, smoking cessation has new targets – for example, dealing with e-cigarettes and vaping – but the goal remains the same.  E.W. Emanuel, MD, of Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group, sums it up well in his March 2017 blog that these new vehicles for tobacco delivery are still considered harmful to adolescents’ health. E-cigarettes contain nicotine and other potentially toxic chemicals, and teens who use them may be more likely to start smoking tobacco. Kaiser Permanente offers advice and programs for those wishing to break the tobacco habit.

 

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Patriot in Pinstripes: Honoring Veterans, Homefront, and Peace

posted on November 7, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

Henry J. Kaiser speaking at Navy ship dedication, Northwest shipyards, circa 1943.

During World War II, Henry J. Kaiser was a major producer of America’s “arsenal of democracy.” The Kaiser Richmond shipyards launched 747 ships; the yards in the Portland, Ore., area produced 743. Kaiser built cargo ships, tankers, fighting ships, and airplanes. Biographer Mark S. Foster dubbed him a “patriot in pinstripes.”

But Kaiser was no hawk. His eye was always on the human impact of the war, and his vision was focused on postwar reconstruction. He expressed these themes in a speech he gave in December, 1943:

Ironical as it must appear, the war has taught us to employ our vast resources and to multiply them a million-fold by power and the machine. The war has taught us how to train men and women quickly for new trades so that the labor, which is displaced by the machine can be quickly adapted to new techniques. In the dread circumstances of war, we have brought employment to the peak, and efficiency to an all-time high…[but] If we rebuild a world of monopoly and special privilege, we will taste a defeat as bitter as a victory for the Axis powers.

His employment record of 190,000 home front workers was unequalled, embracing the most diverse workforce to date in American history. While it’s true that as the war progressed, Kaiser had no choice but to hire workers beyond the standard industrial pool, he also did so without hesitation. He’d managed a diverse workforce in his construction business (such as while roadbuilding in Cuba in the 1920s) and learned how to adjust the work process to fit those who were doing it. His personal philosophy was to encourage the full development of all people.

Real Heroes comic, published by The Parents Magazine Press, 1943. Henry Kaiser is honored, along with Admiral William “Bull” Halsey and General Brehon Somervell.

He pushed back as much as he could against the unions that resisted change (most notoriously, the shipyard Boilermakers Union initially refused to hire women and blacks as equals to white workers), and went to great lengths to “accommodate” the needs of the new workforce – child care centers, special medical education programs, ability-based job placement, affordable health care – all things that he believed were of value to the postwar society as well.

He was the patron sponsor of the integrated service organization for merchant mariners, who operated his ships and suffered terribly during the war.

As Allied victory began to appear certain, he redoubled his plans for the next phase of history. His October 17, 1944, speech “Jobs for All” in New York eloquently described his views:

On this one fact, there is unanimous agreement: every man in the American Forces has the right to come home not only to a job, but to peace. Anything less would be a denial of the true American way of life. Peace means so much more than a cessation of hostilities! Peace is a state of mind. It is based on the sense of security…Often I am classified as a dreamer, particularly when I talk about health insurance. To live abundantly and take part in a productive economy, our people must have health.

Let us be inspired by Henry Kaiser and honor our veterans, honor our home front workers, honor peace.

 

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An Experiment Named Fabiola: Health Care Takes Root in Oakland

posted on October 12, 2017

 

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

“Fabiola Ends Experiment in ‘Feminism’” -Oakland Tribune, October 16, 1932.

Original Fabiola Hospital and staff, circa 1924, from collection donated by nurse Helen Dahl Collier.

This was the provocative headline for a story about the closing of the Fabiola hospital, originally named for the Roman nurse and matron who founded the world’s first hospital in the fourth century. Henry J. Kaiser would assure funding for the purchase and refurbishing of this building in 1942 (but we’ll get to that later).

The author of the Oakland Tribune story was Nancy Barr Mavity, a well-known crime writer and journalist. She described how the institution was founded by eighteen women in 1876 with provisions that management “must always be in the hands of a woman” and that “every staff doctor must also be a woman“ — provisions which were revolutionary in their day and had been maintained unbroken for 56 years.

Mavity continued:

Photocollage of new Fabiola maternity hospital and Association women, Oakland Tribune, 1923.

“These pioneer women foresaw the need – now one of the most-discussed social problems of medical men and laity – of providing adequate hospital care for those of limited means who were yet not eligible in admittance to the county hospital. With this end in view, it has carried on its work of providing free and reduced-rate care for those who need it, supported by voluntary contributions and by those patients able to pay in full.”

The model of care crafted by the women of the Oakland Homeopathic Hospital and Dispensary Association forecast modern methods and theories long before they became generally accepted. They established the first training school for nurses in the East Bay in 1887; the first district nurse in Oakland, in 1895; the first children’s hospital, the first kitchen under the charge of a trained dietitian; the first ambulance service, contributed by Mrs. J. R. Folger; and the first health insurance program, founded in the 1890s by the mother of Mrs. J.P.H. Dunn (Fabiola Hospital Association’s president for 16 years) as the Fabiola Health Mutual.

Fabiola Hospital, before Permanente purchase and initial remodel, early 1942.

In 1886, Oakland water systems entrepreneur Anthony Chabot donated the broad field at Broadway and Moss Avenue for building the Fabiola Hospital. The expansive turreted facility burned down in 1900 and was replaced with a surgical building (1907) and a 50-bed maternity hospital (1923) at the corner of Moss Avenue and Broadway. Moss was renamed MacArthur Boulevard in 1950.

The hospital that would become the first Permanente (now called Kaiser Permanente) Hospital.

Vacant and unused, the facility had been donated to Merritt Hospital when Fabiola closed its doors in 1933. Henry J. Kaiser personally guaranteed the $350,000 bank loan needed to purchase and refurbish the hospital. While it was being remodeled, Dr. Sidney Garfield contracted for 20 beds at Merritt Hospital. The revived building was dedicated as the Permanente Hospital on August 21, 1942.

Architectural drawing of expansion at the Permanente Foundation Hospital, 1944

In 1961, the original Fabiola building and the adjacent two-story WWII expansion facilities were given a fresh exterior, and the building was demolished in 2005, replaced with a parking lot and patient drop-off and pickup site.

The Kaiser Permanente Fabiola Medical Office Building at 3801 Howe Street was built in 1993, continuing the proud name in Oakland’s health care. The “experiment” from 1876 that shone a light on the importance of providing affordable health care, by and for women, lives on.

Oakland hospital, 1961; Fabiola building and WWII expansion have been upgraded with new siding.

 

 

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Give Me Liberty – Wartime Ship Launch Honors Immigrants

posted on October 5, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

During World War II, diversity was a media weapon against the Axis forces.

Small scale Statue of Liberty at Richmond shipyard #2, at launching of the last Liberty ship built on the Pacific coast, the SS Benjamin Warner

Our diversity – our “melting pot” of ethnicities, races, religions, and creeds – distinguished us positively from the purity and exceptionalism espoused by our foes. The Office of War Information promoted every instance in which our military and home front work force reflected the rich mosaic that is America, and the Kaiser shipyards offered fertile ground for content.

The Liberty ship Booker T. Washington, built at the California Shipbuilding Corp. at Terminal Island, Los Angeles, and launched in 1942, was the first major U.S. oceangoing vessel to be named after an African-American. Several cargo ships were named after what we now call historically black colleges or universities, but back then were “Negro colleges.” When the SS Tuskegee Victory was launched at Oregon Shipbuilding on May 8, 1945, her invocation (a traditional elements of a ship launching, also known as the Prayer of the Invocation) was offered by Father Thomas Tobin, pastor of All Saints church, “who has championed the interests of minority groups all his life.”

The second ship named after an African American was the SS George Washington Carver, built in the Kaiser Richmond shipyards.  She was the first Kaiser-built Liberty ship to be named for a famous African American, and many of the men and women who built her were African Americans.

The SS Pendleton was the 49th “T2” model tanker built at the Kaiser Swan Island shipyard, on the Willamette River in Portland, Ore.; her launching at the beginning of 1944 honored the role of Native Americans in the military and the home front.

Admiral Vickery (Vice-Chairman of the U.S, Maritime Commission) at launching of the SS Benjamin Warner, from Fore ‘n’ Aft, 7/14/1944.

Six Liberty ships were named for labor leaders, many of whom were European immigrants. And seven other Liberty ships launched in 1944 were named for Jewish American labor leaders, doubly sticking it to Hitler’s doomed Reich.

The launching of the SS Benjamin Warner on the 4th of July weekend, 1944, honored an immigrant, and the event was decorated with a giant replica Statue of Liberty. America’s film industry became a testament to the Allied moral high ground, as a place where even Polish Jewish immigrants could rise to fame and fortune.

The Warner was named after the father of Hollywood’s Warner brothers. Henry J. Kaiser, himself the child of immigrants, proclaimed “Benjamin Warner was a plain man, unknown and unsung until he entered the new world of hope and opportunity which he found in America.”

She was the 1,147th ship of this class built in the Kaiser shipyards and launched on the West Coast—and the last. A few Liberties are still being finished at East Coast yards. The Liberty class was being replaced by the larger and faster Victory class ships, and the Kaiser shipyards were already building them. A reporter for Time magazine described the event as “the melancholy end of a shipbuilding era.”

Benjamin Warner’s sons, Hollywood motion picture producers Harry M. and Colonel Jack Warner, were present at the ceremonies. The craft was sponsored at the launching by Miss Lita B. Warner, 19-year-old granddaughter, a Stanford University student.

Rabbi Rudolph I. Coffee conducted the Warner’s invocation. Between 1921 and 1933, Coffee had been the rabbi at the oldest Jewish congregation in the East Bay, Temple Sinai, at 28th and Webster streets in Oakland. After that he became the chaplain at San Quentin Prison until he retired in 1954. Rabbi Coffee had been selected for this honor because he’d performed wedding ceremonies for Harry Warner and his third brother, Albert.

A 13-foot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty was unveiled as a gift from Warners to the builders. The fate of this replica is unknown.

Yes, send us your huddled masses yearning to be free. Modern diversity messaging favors the “salad bowl” concept rather than the “melting pot” (mixing together yet retaining individuality) but the concept is the same – In addition to making us stronger, diversity and inclusion enable us to achieve the vision our founders had when they started it all.

 

A short news film by Paramount Pictures of the launching can be seen here.

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