Posts Tagged ‘Community Benefit’

Harbor City Hospital – Beachhead for Labor Health Care

posted on September 29, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

Painting of proposed Harbor City hospital, circa 1955

When the Permanente Health Plan was made available to West Coast members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in 1950, it was a classic example of “be careful what you wish for.”

The Permanente plan, robustly serving workers and families for Henry J. Kaiser’s home front industries, expanded to the public on July 21, 1945, less than a month before the end of World War II. It was a heady and challenging period, and labor unions were to become major group members of the postwar Permanente. Why? Because, for the first time, unions could negotiate health coverage.

The key legal ruling was the 1948 decision by the Seventh Circuit United States Court of Appeals in the case of Inland Steel Company vs the National Labor Relations Board. This precedent affirmed the legal obligation of employers in unionized companies to include health and welfare benefits as part of labor negotiations.

Harbor City Hospital under construction, 1959

In 1950 The International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association requested the Permanente Health Plan provide care for all 22,500 of their workers up and down the West Coast; The ILWU became the first major group enrolled in the Health Plan.

At the insistence of ILWU leader Harry Bridges, Permanente was the only choice for the union members. This exclusivity violated Permanente policy that membership should be voluntary, which understandably caused some dissatisfaction with ILWU members. It wasn’t until 1954 that ILWU members were offered a choice of a second plan after Permanente consultant and economist Avram Yedidia convinced Bridges of the importance of dual choice; only 10 percent would leave Permanente.

But there was a problem with capacity. Bridges brought in thousands of new members to a plan that was recovering from a postwar slump and had limited facilities.

For the major ports of Oakland and San Francisco, where the Permanente hospital and clinics were already established, that wasn’t a problem. Looking north, ILWU members in Seattle got care through an agreement with the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound and other providers while Portland-Vancouver union members were served by Northern Permanente. Southern California would involve an estimated membership of more than 11,000 longshoremen, but the only Permanente hospital was at the Fontana Steel Mill, 60 miles from the ocean. Not exactly longshore territory.

First LA South Bay clinic, 599 W. Ninth St. (and Grand Ave.).

Bridges wanted a Permanente facility in the San Pedro harbor area where there was a high concentration of members. His promise convinced Permanente that this is the time and the place to expand. Enter the Harbor City Hospital, proud pioneer of the Los Angeles South Bay service area.

Temporary facilities began immediately. A history compiled for the 60th anniversary of the South Bay area described the first San Pedro clinic:

Dr. Ray Kay (founder of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group) and Medical Director Dr. Ira “Buck” Wallin found a working clinic at 599 W. Ninth St. (and Grand Avenue) already occupied by doctors who were, at first, willing to share space. They even agreed to help take care of the longshoremen after hours. That arrangement was short-lived, however. Spooked by the economic threat posed by group practice, the doctors in the community gave the cold shoulder to Wallin’s staff and anyone who associated with them professionally or socially. The three fee-for-service doctors with offices in the shared clinic buckled under the pressure and vacated the premises.

Permanente promised the ILWU that they would build a new hospital in the Wilmington-San Pedro area, but progress was slow. The new Kaiser Foundation Hospital in downtown Los Angeles broke ground in late 1951, and drew institutional resources away from the Harbor City facility.

Aerial photo with lot boundary marked, Harbor City Medical Center, 1100 West Pacific Coast Highway, circa 1957

Things came to a head when 5,000 cannery workers in the San Pedro area signed up with the Permanente plan at the end of 1953. The workers’ employers had wanted them to sign up with the California Physicians’ Service, a competing prepaid plan offered through the California Medical Association. This was during the period where the medical establishment disapproved of Permanente physicians, who were barred from facilities such as San Pedro Community Hospital. The ILWU had been waiting more than two years for their promised hospital, and were getting cranky.

1953 was also the year the scrappy Permanente clinic in Pittsburg, Calif., opened to serve the labor unions and local community.

By early 1955 a site had been purchased, a complex deal involving three parcels, each held by different owners. Clarence Mayhew, the most prominent architect of Kaiser Foundation hospitals, drew up plans for a bold and innovative 66-bed hospital. It featured “vast amounts of glass,” separate corridors for staff and the public, and the famous “baby-in-a-drawer.” The groundbreaking ceremony November 4, 1955, included elected officials, leaders of the ILWU, and the PMA.

On January 14, 1957, the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Harbor City at 1100 West Pacific Coast Highway, opened. It was hectic. At a 30-year celebration, Medical Administrator Pat Crowe reminisced “The day before we opened, carpenters were still making last-minute changes and final clean-up was not yet complete. Eighteen patients were admitted that afternoon and evening.” One of them was about to deliver her second child. At 1:54 a.m. on January 15 she gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

Aerial photo, Harbor City Medical Center, 1100 West Pacific Coast Highway, expansion construction, circa 1975

The ILWU Dispatcher newspaper of February 15 added this under “Local 13 Man Launches New Harbor Hospital”: First patient in the new $1,000,000 Kaiser Foundation Harbor Hospital was ILWU Local 13 member Oscar Roberts, covered through the ILWU-PMA Welfare Program.

As with all the Permanente facilities, demand always pushed capacity. Sixteen beds were added in late 1958, and a two-story clinic at 1050 West Pacific Coast Highway was built in 1959. Additional expansion happened in 1964, bringing bed capacity up to 121. 1969 saw further clinic expansion. A serious fire destroyed a section of the adjacent Parkview Medical Office Building in 1973.

Harbor City Hospital, ER nurses’s station, 1966

Harry Shragg, MD, served at Harbor City from 1957 until 1968 as a surgeon, chief of the Department of Surgery, administrator of a community health care program for indigents, and medical director. In his oral history he recounted an epiphanic moment about Permanente medicine:

I was on call in the hospital one evening, and a black girl from Compton ─ which is a lower socio-economic level area ─ came into the emergency room with abdominal pain. I think she was sixteen years old. And she was seen by a board-certified pediatrician, examined by a board-certified gynecologist, and examined by me, a board-certified surgeon. We took her to the operating room ─ she had appendicitis ─ and we operated on her. And the whole sequence of that one episode, to my mind, crystalized the merits, and the value, and the philosophy of this kind of practice, where the issue of whether one could afford it or not never arose… She was just a sick person who came in and needed help, and we just gave her what I thought was outstanding quality care… That was, to me, a very dramatic and very memorable occurrence, and I think that’s what it’s all about.

 

Service to working communities. Yes, that’s what it’s all about.

 

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/2yy3Hmj

 

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Bicycle Safety – Thriving on two wheels

posted on May 18, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

automobile, safety, Kaiser Manhattan, World's First Safety First Car

Print ad for 1953 Kaiser Manhattan, “the world’s first ‘safety first’ car”

Prevention has always been fundamental to Kaiser Permanente’s mission. That includes both the prevention of illness through healthy behaviors and the prevention of injury by taking safety precautions. Even outside the health care field, Henry J. Kaiser’s Kaiser-Frazer automobile company strove to build safer cars and educate drivers, especially newly licensed teenagers, about safe driving.  The 1953 Kaiser Manhattan was dubbed the “World’s First Safety-First Car!”

A current Kaiser Permanente campaign to encourage the wearing of helmets when riding a bicycle (“Making Bicycle Helmets the New Safety ‘Seatbelt,” May 3) may be our newest effort in this arena, but it’s certainly not our first. Here are just two notable bike safety efforts from our archives:

Maryland’s bicycle helmet law, which became effective in October 1995, covered children under the age of 16. The legislation was spearheaded by Maryland Governor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (now called the Governor’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee). Kaiser Permanente was among Maryland’s bicycle helmet legislation partner organizations, providing testimony, incentives, and education.

Planning For Health 1993-Summer

Planning For Health; summer,1993

Oregon’s law was even earlier. It passed in July 1993 and took effect in July 1994. The year’s delay was built in to educate the public about the law and because of concerns about the ability of low-income children to afford bicycle helmets. The legislation was pushed by the Oregon Bicycle Helmet Coalition, which included a wide range of people and groups, including Kaiser Permanente.

As soon as the law was implemented, Kaiser Permanente distributed 1,500 free bike helmets to students at schools in Portland in hopes of reducing bicycle-related injuries and deaths. Ellen Hall, MD, from the Beaverton, Ore., Medical Office, was quoted as saying, “We’re concerned about how few children in our communities have helmets.”

In addition, Kaiser Permanente worked with officers from the Portland Police Bureau’s Bicycle Safety Unit and the Community Cycling Center in northeast Portland to teach traffic safety classes at north Portland schools. Kaiser Permanente also sold bike helmets at cost at three ‘cash-and-carry’ sales. By the end of 1995 Kaiser Permanente had donated nearly 2,000 bicycle helmets to low-income and at-risk children.

Bike helmet giveaway to 200 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students at James John elementary school in North Portland, Pulse 1997-08

Bike helmet giveaway to 200 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students at James John elementary school in North Portland, Pulse; August, 1997

“Even though Oregon law requires everyone under age 16 to wear a hike helmet when riding, many families can’t afford one,” said Adrianne Felustein, MD, co-chair of Kaiser Permanente’s Trauma Committee. “At Whitman school, just over half of all students qualify for free or reduced lunches—and the majority don’t have bike helmets.”

In 1995, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission selected Kaiser Permanente’s “Evel the Weevel” (a parodic reference to the motorcycle daredevil Evil Knievel) bilingual bike helmet safety brochures in Oregon to be distributed nationwide. The brochures were praised as an “example of a best practice in preventing childhood injuries.”

 

 Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/1R8Yu5u

 

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Recycling a hospital

posted on August 29, 2013
Aerial view, Bess Kaiser Hospital, Portland OR, 4/15/1967. Built 1959, closed 1996.
Aerial view, Bess Kaiser Hospital, Portland OR, 4/15/1967.
Built 1959, closed 1996.

by Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer

What does one do with a decommissioned hospital? When Portland’s beloved Bess Kaiser hospital was closed down (to become the American headquarters of the Adidas sporting gear company) several 40-foot shipping containers of recycled components – doors, fixtures, cabinets, even the proverbial kitchen sink – were salvaged and crated up.

Community volunteers and hospital staff worked with the Portland Rebuilding Project and Mercy Corps to ship these still-usable items to far-flung health care facilities in Central America, the Balkans, and Central Asia.

Short link to this item: ow.ly/onT5u

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Permanente traditions advance with total health assessment campaign

posted on December 29, 2010

By Ginny McPartland 

Longshoremen line up for their health assessment or "physical" in 1961

I recently took an online total health assessment (THA) through the healthy lifestyles program on Kaiser Permanente’s members Web site, kp.org. This was my second time (in three years) so I knew the drill: answer quite a few questions about my health and lifestyle habits and find out where I stand health-wise. I did it for me, but I had another motive. By taking the assessment, I earned $50 for charity.

When I first heard Kaiser Permanente was offering its employees a $50-to-charity incentive to take the THA, I wasn’t that impressed. I didn’t think the donation would convince people to participate in KP’s initiative to build a healthier workforce. I also didn’t think $50 would go that far. I have to admit I was WRONG!

By mid-December, more than 22,000 (14.5%) KP employees nationwide had taken the THA and by that small action collectively raised an impressive $1.1 million. Now that will go a long way. How far? For starters, each $50 could buy 700 pounds of fruits and vegetables or 77 dozen eggs for the hungry. Or it could provide 10 pediatric flu shots for needy kids. Multiply those items by 22,000 donors and you get the picture. 

The money raised by the 2010 THA incentive program will go to community healthy eating initiatives and to support health care for disadvantaged people and families, especially the homeless, the disabled and those living with HIV/AIDS.  The KP region whose employees raise the most money will receive an extra $50,000 for charities in their communities. The winner will be announced in January; the money will be awarded in March.* 

1951 brochure announcing Longshoremen assessment program. Image courtesy of the ILWU.

I think it says something about the KP culture that so many employees were motivated to raise money for others less fortunate than themselves. If they hadn’t felt compelled to take the assessment for their own sake, they were motivated to help others. Of course, Kaiser Permanente has given millions to good causes over the years through its Community Benefit programs.†

Total health assessment by any other name

Given our history as a preventive care organization, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that Kaiser Permanente has been a champion of the total health assessment for over 60 years. In 1950, such an assessment was called the “multiphasic examination,” and it was initiated when labor leader Harry Bridges of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) demanded it for all members of the union. 

The ILWU members lined up at the waterfront for preventive clinics that included blood and urine screening tests, chest X-ray, electrocardiogram, and other tests to search for chronic disease. Each member also completed a health questionnaire similar to today’s THA. The recording and archiving of test results became the impetus for Kaiser Permanente to acquire its first computers in 1960. 

These records, still accessible today, have supported long-term health research related to heart disease and other chronic diseases. One such study, “Characteristics of Longshoremen Related to Fatal Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke” by Paffenbarger et al., was published in the “American Journal of Public Health,” in 1971. 

Robert Feldman, MD, and Sidney Garfield, MD, confer on the health assessment program launched in the late 1960s.

In the late 1960s, Permanente founding physician Sidney Garfield launched a program called “The Total Health Care Project” to expand the multiphasic programs in Oakland and San Francisco. Garfield and Robert Feldman, MD, hired and trained KP’s first nurse practitioners to run the program that included the use of computerized lab machines that yielded results while the patient was still at the clinic. Their goal was to collect baseline health data that could be used to identify health risks and to prevent disease. 

Today’s iteration of the multiphasic exam is a system of chronic disease screening programs designed to detect symptoms early and identify risk factors. The total health assessment questionnaire challenges participants to scrutinize their lifestyles and work with their doctors to figure ways to head off diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. 

For me, the THA results are a reminder of what I need to do to stay healthy. I’m also hoping I can improve my sleep by following through with the online insomnia program. But most of all, I feel glad that my co-workers saw fit to get involved for themselves and to raise money to improve the health of others less fortunate. 

*Benefit-eligible Kaiser Permanente employees and physicians may earn the $50 charitable donation by taking the THA by Dec. 31.  Go to the Healthy Workforce site to participate. 

†Click here for more information about Kaiser Permanente’s Community Benefit Program

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