A New Reality: 1980-2002
Throughout the 80s and 90s, rapid advances in technology helped
physicians treat injury and control disease in new and exciting
ways. But these technological advances caused the cost of care to
skyrocket. At the same time, insurers paid hospitals less and
less for the care they provided. These and many other economic
factors created a fundamental shift in the way hospitals
Nowhere was this more true than at White Memorial, where a large
percentage of patients were financially unable to pay for their
care and often couldn't even get or pay for health plan coverage.
As a result, the early to mid-1980s were financially devastating
for White Memorial. In 1980, the hospital joined other Adventist
facilities to form Adventist Health System/West. But even the
strength of this affiliation could not stop the flow of red ink.
By 1987, there was talk of selling the hospital because of its
The hospital instituted an extensive cost-reduction program in a
last-ditch effort to keep its doors open. This move required
sacrifice, including the elimination of several residency
programs, but it worked: By the end of 1988, the hospital was
actually turning a small profit.
Unplanned Funds Trigger an Economic Turnaround
In 1989, a single event reversed White Memorial's financial
crisis and promised to protect the hospital from similar
circumstances in the future. California Senate Bill 855
established funds for hospitals - such as White Memorial - that
provide a high percentage of charity care (free or reduced-cost
care) and serve a disproportionately high number of Medi-Cal
patients. Today, White Memorial is in a financially strong
position as a result of this special funding and is well
positioned for the future.
The hospital's financial future 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. Although damage to the hospital
was minor, White Memorial qualified for funds, along with other
California hospitals, to retrofit and/or rebuild as a result of
California State Senate Bill 1953, which requires that all
hospital buildings not only remain standing, but be operational,
following a major earthquake.
An Outward Focus
Throughout its financial ups and downs, White Memorial stayed
true to its commitment to the East Los Angeles community. In the
mid-1980s, the hospital changed its mission from being a teaching
hospital with community affiliations to a community hospital that
offers teaching programs that better serve the community.
Hospital leaders also chose to keep many advanced services, such
as neonatal services and the open-heart surgery program, that are
not usually found at a community hospital.
In 1988, White Memorial established a Family Medicine Residency
program that focused specifically on Hispanic
doctors-in-training, a reflection of the hospital's
overwhelmingly Hispanic patient population. At this time, the
emphasis of the medical education programs shifted to the primary
care needs of the community.
Throughout the past 25 years, White Memorial has worked closely
with a large number of community-based organizations to bring
health, safety and wellness programs to individuals and families
who might not be able to receive these benefits elsewhere.
So, while White Memorial's most recent quarter-century has been
influenced strongly by the challenges of a new financial reality,
the hospital's staff and physicians have continued to explore
ways to better serve their community. And now, with a major
building campaign underway, the future looks brighter than ever
for the relationship between White Memorial and the people of Los