Southern Comfort – Doctor Gaston and The Southeast Permanente Medical Group

posted on December 10, 2018

Guest post by Cuong Le
Permanente Medical Group historian

 

New physicians Anne and Harper Gaston, May 23, 1955

History is often a treasured story passed down through generations. The history of The Southeast Permanente Medical Group, opened in 1985 to serve the Georgia area, is one such story: It begins with a group of doctors who had a vision of building a community focused and patient-centered culture.

Georgia native J. Harper Gaston, MD, was one leader who graduated with his medical degree from Emory University and worked as an internist at Grady Hospital. After Kaiser Permanente hired Dr. Gaston in 1961, he moved to California and worked at hospitals in the cities of San Leandro and Hayward. As HMOs expanded throughout the 1970s, Kaiser Permanente saw the opportunity to develop medical group practices in other geographical regions. After much research and discussion, Atlanta was one of two selected areas for expansion during the early 1980s.

News of Dr. Gaston’s success in hospital administration, combined with his re-election as physician-in-chief at Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Hayward, convinced Kaiser Permanente leaders to approach him with plans to establish a medical group practice in Georgia. Atlanta was a growing urban capital, attracting the attention of major corporations and leaders around the world. However, the city’s lack of familiarity with HMOs before 1980 presented a challenge for Kaiser Permanente’s geographical expansion.

Dr. Gaston and Edgar T. Carlson, MD, a colleague from Kaiser Permanente’s Ohio Region, went off to open the new region. Georgia. When they arrived in Atlanta in 1984, State Insurance Commissioner Jimmy Caldwell revealed that previous agreements with existing HMOs prevented Kaiser Permanente from receiving the certificate needed to establish an HMO in Georgia for a year. Dr. Gaston turned the unexpected situation into an opportunity by spending the next year meeting with physicians and community organizations.

Doctors Gaston and Carlson reviewing clinic plans, September 29, 1985

The bonds formed between Dr. Gaston and the Georgia community became lasting partnerships when Kaiser Permanente finally received the certificate during the summer of 1985. After opening their first medical office, Dr. Gaston and a team of physicians volunteered at the Downtown Day Labor Service Center and conducted medical exams for the homeless on Friday nights. When the annual school budget ran out, they volunteered to continue hearing and vision screenings for elementary schools through the Adopt-A-School program.

Since the first Kaiser Permanente medical office opened in Atlanta more than 30 years ago, Kaiser Permanente in Georgia has grown to more than 25 offices around Atlanta and one in Athens. And the momentum continues. A recent agreement with Emory Healthcare provides Kaiser Permanente members with a fully integrated health care experience, and in the process, advances patient- and family-centered care in metro Atlanta and beyond.

 

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Really Mass Transit – Henry J. Kaiser’s Super Bus

posted on November 29, 2018

Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer

 

Publicity shot of Henry J. Kaiser at wheel of his superbus

Publicity shot of Henry J. Kaiser at wheel of his superbus

Henry J. Kaiser loved vehicles: He raced speedboats, built ships for World War II, proposed a fleet of civilian aircraft, built affordable postwar automobiles, and even experimented with helicopters.

What was left?

Big buses. Really big buses.

“The bus of the future” was announced in the Oakland Tribune on August 1, 1946. Unveiled to the public for the first time in Oakland and San Francisco, this marvel of mass transportation was custom built of lightweight magnesium and aluminum. It carried 63 passengers (or 40 passengers, depending on the account) in two articulated sections totaling 60 feet in length. It was operated by a driver and a “co-operator,” in charge of collecting tickets, passenger comfort, announcements, and dispensing refreshments. Each section had a toilet, and the seats could swivel, allowing passengers to “play cards or converse.”

The ride was promoted by would-be Don Drapers as being “like a cloud,” suspended on “torsilastic springs” manufactured by B.F. Goodrich. It was powered by a 275-horsepower supercharged Cummins diesel engine, a precursor to the powerplant Kaiser used in the 1952 Indianapolis 500.

The bus was prepared for Santa Fe Trailways (later Continental Trailways, part of National Trailways Bus System) at the Kaiser Permanente Metals Corporation plant near Los Altos as a prototype. Eventual production options included fabrication at the recently closed Kaiser Richmond shipyard number 3. These were intended for longer routes between train stations, not urban transportation.

In 1947 the bus was featured leaving Oakland for Los Angeles with members of the cast of the Southern California Sportsmen’s Show. News accounts noted that the bus, “approximately twice the length of the standard bus and equipped with many luxury features, will be open for public inspection.”

Ad from the Bakersfield Californian touting bus at Sportsmen’s Show, April 21, 1947

Ad from the Bakersfield Californian touting bus at Sportsmen’s Show, April 21, 1947

Alas, the fleet of super buses never materialized, although this prototype entered regular service between Los Angeles and San Francisco through 1951. At the time, Henry J. Kaiser was busy with his Kaiser-Frazer automobile company, and the “bus of the future” was one project that never gained traction.

In early 1966, the Alameda County (California) Transit Authority announced plans to roll out a new, 77-passenger articulated bus dubbed the “Freeway Train,” described as the first in the nation to be used for public transportation.

Well, the first after Henry Kaiser’s.

 

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Dan Golenternek, MD – POW Physician

posted on November 8, 2018

Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer

 

Dr. Golenternek at liberation, 9/14/1945.

When we think of Army veterans, we usually think of infantry soldiers who fought on the front lines. But the armed forces also include health care professionals whose medical service exemplifies the highest levels of sacrifice and bravery. Dan Golenternek, MD endured World War II in just such a manner that serves as a shining example.

The first reveal of his sacrifice emerged when we learned he was a prisoner of war in a short report from the Oakland (Kaiser) Permanente Foundation Hospital in the December 1945 issue of the Alameda-Contra Costa Medical Association Bulletin:

Coffee consumption in the staff dining room rose sharply in October with a daily contingent of colleagues back from the wars to tell their stories and catch up on gossip from the home front. Major Dan Golenternek has gained back 90 pounds of the somewhat more which he lost during three and a half years in Japanese prison camps …

Such weight loss is alarming. What happened?

Liberated prisoners waving at the gate to Hanawa Prisoner of War Camp #6, September 14, 1945.

Dr. Golenternek, who’d been training at L.A. County Hospital before enlisting in the Army, was captured by the Japanese Army in April 1942 and imprisoned in the Philippines soon after he’d gone to the South Pacific. Later he was one of two U.S. Medical Corps physicians at the Sendai #6-B prisoner-of-war slave labor camp working at the Mitsubishi Mining Company copper mine in Hanawa, Japan. At liberation, it held 546 POWs: 495 Americans, 50 British, and 1 Australian. The other physician was John Lamy, with a rank of First Lieutenant.

The Sendai camp was established on September 8, 1944 and liberated a year later. It was filled with prisoners (including survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March) shipped from the Philippines to Japan on the “hell ship” Noto Maru. The Noto Maru sailed from Manila on August 27, 1944, transporting 1,035 American POWs to Port Moji, Japan. Dr. Golenternek was one of them.

Army Air Corps Technical Sergeant James T. Murphy, who survived the Sendai camp, recounted the horrific conditions and Dr. Golenternek’s role:

Dr. Golenternek was not given any medicines or medical facilities in his required job of keeping the slave-laborers — the American POWs — fit enough to walk the two miles to and from the mine daily, in their inadequate clothing and shoes, and to perform their 12-hour shifts … By hook and by crook, by sheer innovation … he managed to keep the sickest POWs from going to the mine. He created medical facilities and methods to treat wounds where there were none. He even convinced the Japanese to increase our food rations. All his methods had curative effects, and during that year of 1944-1945, only eight POWs were lost.

Allied officers who were appointed officers at the Hanawa Prisoner of War Camp #6 in Honshu, Japan. 14 September 1945. They are, front row, left to right: Capt. Dan Golenternek, Los Angeles, Calif.; Lt. Col. Arthur J. Walker, Adj. General, Washington, D.C.; Capt. E.P. Fleming, Jr., Ashville, N.C.; Capt. R.G.H. Eagle, R.E., Lloyds Bank, London, England; Back row, left to right: Flight Lt. Robert H. Thompson, RAAF, Melbourne, Australia; Capt. T.G. Spotte, Los Angeles, Calif.; Lt. W.F. Willoughby, R.E., Lloyds Bank, London, England; Lt. R.T. Pullen, Jr., Long Beach, Calif.; Lt. John E. Lamy, Sedalia, Missouri.

Another POW physician, Harry Levitt, MD, recounted earlier experiences with Dr. Golenternek at Bilibid and Rokuroshi Camps in the Philippines:

In Bilibid, Dr. Golenternek was called to care for the Japanese commander, who had an indolent ulcer on his leg that didn’t heal despite three surgical attempts by Japanese doctors. The commander told Dr. Golenternek to operate and cure the ulcer or he would be executed. At first, Golenternek was reluctant to aid the enemy, but reconsidered after realizing his own death was imminent. The ulcer did heal. A reward of extra food, antibiotics and vitamins was secretly provided for the POWs, because the appearance of unyielding brutality had to be maintained by commander.

After the war and brief service at the Permanente Hospital in Oakland, Dr. Golenternek returned to Los Angeles to complete his training in obstetrics and gynecology. He never spoke about his wartime experiences and died in 2004.

 

Photos courtesy National Archives and Records Administration

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The Power of One – Kaiser Permanente’s First Individual Plan

posted on October 22, 2018

Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer

 

Brochure for Northwest Kaiser Permanente’s Personal Advantage plan, November 1998

For many years, Kaiser Permanente members signed up through “groups” — organizations such as unions or employers who provide health plan benefits to their employees. However, when the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010 and the first open enrollment began 2014, Kaiser Permanente saw a large demand for “individual member plans” — plans families and individuals purchase themselves — and created options accordingly.

That wasn’t the first time. In 1995, an exciting new Kaiser Permanente individual plan was opened to the public.

When founding physician Sidney Garfield, MD, started his practice for the workers on the Colorado River Aqueduct project in 1933, they were covered under an industrial health plan. Non-work-related health care was paid as fee-for-service, but Garfield soon covered that under a low-cost prepaid plan. Dr. Garfield next cared for the workers at the Grand Coulee Dam project in Washington, where there was a community of wives and children. When the unions insisted, a prepaid health plan was extended to families. During World War II, Dr. Garfield’s medical coverage of the workers in the West Coast shipyards added families, first in the Northwest in September of 1943 and then in California in April 1945.

Brochure for family health plan, 1945

After the war ended, the Permanente health plans faced a serious challenge with the loss of almost 200,000 Kaiser workers. But because of Henry J. Kaiser’s positive relations with organized labor, unions became the first group members of the public plan. Soon, corporations, government agencies and nonprofit organizations were signing up their employees, and for many years, group membership was the primary point of entry for health plan members. Group membership in 1959 was 80 percent; within 20 years that would grow to approximately 90 percent. The few individuals were “conversion members” who were no longer covered under a group.

In late 1995, Kaiser Permanente in Northern California sought to increase membership by launching its first non-group health plan for individuals and families who weren’t covered by their employers or a family member. It was called Personal Advantage. In 1996, the employee magazine Contact described the development:

Rates for this plan are based on age and are highly competitive, with special rates available for people living in certain geographic areas. … Personal Advantage members have access to the same comprehensive quality care provided by Kaiser Permanente’s [“conversion member”] individual plan, including a prescription plan and optional dental coverage.

Personal Advantage brochure cover, Georgia region, 2008

Personal Advantage was marketed through television and newspaper advertising, and was promoted at events that attracted young adults, such as sports events and concerts.

“Growth has been nearly 100 percent higher than expected,” said Jill Feldon, advertising manager. “Consumers like the low price, and they appreciate the value of receiving comprehensive health care coverage, access to specialists, and the high-quality care that Kaiser Permanente provides.”

In 2002, Personal Advantage Plan members were able to take advantage of the then-new phenomenon of online enrollment. The initiative marked one of the first examples of an insurer offering online enrollment through its own website, and it reduced processing time by eliminating paperwork. By 2005, the Kaiser Permanente Personal Advantage Plan was joined with a similar effort called the Kaiser Permanente Individual Plan and became Kaiser Permanente for Individuals and Families.

Group or individual, Kaiser Permanente strives to accommodate the health care needs of all.

 

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