Our unique brand of health care has deep roots. When America’s entry into World War II brought tens of thousands of workers pouring into the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, Calif., to meet the nation’s demand for big Liberty ships and aircraft carriers, Henry J. Kaiser turned to Sidney Garfield, MD, to solve the problem of how to provide health care for a teeming mass of 30,000.
Dr. Garfield had previously organized and run a 12-bed hospital in the middle of the Mojave Desert at the height of the Great Depression, treating workers who were building the Colorado River Aqueduct. He realized a prepayment system would enable him to treat illnesses and injuries, while emphasizing the importance of maintaining health and safety. Thousands of workers signed up. This same approach also was enormously popular with workers and their families at the Kaiser Shipyards.