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White Memorial Medical Center (WMMC) is a not-for-profit, faith-based, teaching hospital, which provides a full range of inpatient, outpatient, emergency and diagnostic services to communities in and near downtown Los Angeles. The medical center was founded by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1913 and it has worked ever since to keep the communities healthy. Today, White Memorial is one of the region’s leading not-for-profit hospitals. It offers services over a wide span of medical fields such as intensive and general medical care, oncology, orthopedic care, rehabilitation, specialized and general surgery, and women’s and children’s services (WMMC, 2009).
Since it is also a major teaching hospital, White Memorial also plays an important role in training physicians, nurses and other medical professionals. It is affiliated with Loma Linda University and Medical Center, a 797-bed full-service teaching facility in the San Bernardino County, known globally for its groundbreaking cancer treatment and transplants, medical research and technology, and children’s services (WMMC, 2009).
As a Seventh-day Adventist medical center, the center operates with a spirit of Christian service, through a group of caring professionals. White Memorial works towards becoming a front entity for specialty and tertiary health care in Los Angeles. In its official website, the White Memorial Medical Centre pledges that as a Christian organization, it would live by six Guiding Principles: reach for the highest standards in work; provide services that customers say are excellent; treat others with the same compassion and respect as close family; take personal responsibility to ensure the safety of patients, co-workers and all others at work; use all resources responsibly and efficiently and be honest in all things (WMMC, 2009).
The Adventist healthcare facility that was initially set up in Loma Linda shifted to the more urban Los Angeles due to requirements for more patients. It was founded by Seventh-day Adventist church leader and healthcare reformer Ellen G. White who desired to provide a higher standard of medical training. It opened in Los Angeles as a small storefront hospital in 1913 and with the fund raising efforts of fifty women of the Adventist church, the drive began for a hospital to be built at Boyle Avenue and named in honor of Ellen G. White. It was on April 21, 1918 that the White Memorial Hospital was founded amidst great enthusiasm (WMMC, 2009).
The hospital deepened its commitment to medical training with the opening of the White Memorial School of Nursing in 1923, an institution that held a prominent place in the hospital and community until it was moved to Loma Linda in 1948. After weathering the years of the Depression, White Memorial renewed itself in 1937 as a 180-bed, five-story concrete and steel structure, and became the first earthquake-resistant hospital in California and catered for about 2500 low-income patients each week (WMMC, 2009).
The hospital expanded during the 1950s and by the late 1950s, evolved to become a regional medical center with eight square city blocks and 304 beds. However, the hospital faced a problem in 1962, when it was forced to take its teaching facilities and resources to Loma Linda as the school’s accrediting organization did not like the split-campus concept. In 1963, the hospital’s ownership was transferred from Loma Linda University to the Southern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, a division of the Adventist Church and the name was changed from White Memorial Hospital to White Memorial Medical Center.
The period 1960 – 1980 saw a technology revolution happening at White Memorial and in 1958, the first open heart surgery was performed using the newly developed bypass machine. The hospital soon acquired the latest technologies for emergency care and surgery. In the mid-1980s, the hospital shifts its core mission of being a teaching hospital with community affiliations to being a community hospital that offers teaching programs that better serve the community.
Initially, the hospital faced serious debts, but the conditions were reversed in 1989 with the passage of the California Senate Bill 855 that established funds for non-profit hospitals such as White Memorial and the financial situation was further strengthened in 1996 when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) committed more than $89 million in funds to White Memorial in the wake of the 1994 Northridge earthquake (WMMC, 2009).
Today White Memorial Medical Center is a 369-bed acute care teaching hospital staffed by 400 physicians, 1,700 employees and 50 volunteers. The hospital serves more than 165,000 customers annually with a wide variety of medical specialties, including obstetrics & gynecology, pediatrics, cardiac care, diabetes, emergency services, rehabilitation, cancer services, orthopedics and behavioral health.
With a major building campaign taking place, the hospital looks for further expansion in its structure and services. On the commercial side, the White Memorial Medical Center at Los Angeles is a member and supporter of the Latin Business Association and the Los Angeles Minority Business Opportunity Committee (LA MBOC), a mayor’s office program which promotes small and minority business office contracting.
The White Memorial Medical Center at Los Angeles is a private, charity-based teaching institution and hence its not-for-profit business model aims at catering to the social and spiritual needs of the community. In return for their services, not-for-profit institutions are not taxed for the buildings, property and other purchases and they are also exempted from tax profits at the end of the tax year because the money is seen not as a profit but as a surplus (Devettere, 2000).
Marc Jegers (2008) has found that as non-profit hospitals desire to maximize their services and provide as much uncompensated care as possible, they tend to take advantage of demand increases in order to generate more funds, enabling them to extend their supply of uncompensated care. Thus, the physicians in non-profit hospitals share a relationship that is mutually profitable. For instance, physicians who hold surgeries at White Memorial tend to bring in more money than a physician who simply sees a patient for a check-up.
As WMMC is a not-for-profit organization its governing board is made up of volunteers, and it re-invests any surplus into serving the community. WMMC has the foundation board of the Charitable Foundation working along with the governing board. Generally, in a foundation model, contracts are negotiated by the foundation board with managed core payers that also control all physicians’ revenues. But, in the case of White Memorial Medical Center, its official website says that the Charity foundation is dedicated to the task of raising funds. The hospital’s Charitable Foundation is governed by a separate Foundation Board and is composed of a diverse group of stakeholders. The term medical foundation refers to a not-for-profit organization created to provide healthcare services and which has qualified for federal tax exempt services (Moseley, 1999).
It is often owned and controlled by a not-for profit hospital. There are two basic foundation models – one directly employs the participating physicians. The other model has an independent contractual relationship with one or more physician groups (Moseley, 1999). The White Memorial Medical Center at East Los Angeles employs physicians directly and has some business affiliations for physician services. White Memorial Medical Center is “IHP” contractor at the Emergency Medical Services agency of Los Angeles County and hence the latter organization provides physician services to the former through signing of contracts with individual physicians and the County (Chidister, 2008)
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WMMC has contracts with most major HMO plans and accepts most health plans (Medicare, Medi-Cal, Worker’s Compensation, and HMO). Health plan authorization/qualification will be verified during the pre-admission process. According to the U.S. Census Bureau more than 46 million Americans, or about 16 percent of the population, lack health insurance. In order to help them have their medical needs addressed, WMMC follows the American Hospital Association (AHA) voluntary guidelines for financial assistance. They help the patients in getting insurance or to identify resources for additional social services.
Sometimes, when individuals are not eligible for any insurance program, the hospital’s financial counselors offer alternatives, including discounts for cash payments, payment plans, a sliding scale of fees and the opportunity to apply for charity care. Patients with incomes up to 300 percent of the poverty level may qualify for charity care at WMMC. If they meet the requirements for charity care, the hospital forgives the bill. In 2006 alone, WMMC provided more than $39 million of charity care to more than 19,000 uninsured patients.
Thus, the White Memorial Medical Center at East Los Angeles Center, continues to uphold the legacy of Ellen G. White, with excellent healthcare and teaching facilities. Working on a not-for-profit business model, the WMMC is sustained through the funds raised through the Seventh Day Adventist Foundation, the tax benefits offered by the government and through intelligent physician relationships formed through contracts.
Chidister, Cathy (2008). Physician Services for Indigents Program – Impacted Hospital Program (PSIP-IHP). Emergency Medical Services Agency, Los Angeles County. Web.
Deveterre, J. Raymond (2000). Practical Decision Making in Health Care Ethics: Cases and Concepts. Georgetown University Press.
Jegers, Marc (2008). Managerial Economics of Non-Profit Organizations. Routledge Publishers.
Moseley, B. George (1999). Managed Care Strategies: A Physician Practice Desk Reference. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
WMMC (White Memorial Medical Center) (2009). Web.