By Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer
The Kaiser Foundation Health Plan’s first beachhead in Southern California was a modest hospital for workers at the Fontana Steel Mill.
The plant was built by Henry J. Kaiser in 1942 as the first West Coast source of the rolled steel plates needed to build Liberty and Victory ships for World War II.
After the war the Health Plan in Fontana went public, and with the strong support of labor unions like the Retail Clerks International Union and the International Longshoremen and Warehousemen Union it began to grow throughout the region.
The first facility outside of Fontana was established in Harbor City in 1950 when the entire West Coast ILWU signed up for the plan.
The next year the Retail Clerks International Union signed on and facilities were founded in Los Angeles, at an inauspicious clinic on La Cienega Boulevard; the state-of-the-art Permanente Foundation Hospital on Sunset Boulevard would not be built until 1953.
On January 1 of that year 13 physicians signed the Southern California Permanente Medical Group’s first Partnership Agreement with Raymond Kay, MD, as Medical Director.
Special thanks to Cathy Romero, Communications Production Specialist, Pasadena, for providing the Heritage Resources archive with scans of the Southern California Planning for Health newsletters.
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