Medical Center Planned for the Uninsured : Health: Kaiser Permanente is donating a former nursing home to a group called Urban HealthCare Project, which will serve an Inglewood area that has lacked sufficient medical care.


The last patient was wheeled out of the old nursing home more than two years ago. The long hallways are empty, the examining rooms bereft of furnishings, the floors gritty with construction dust.

But soon medical treatment will again be available in this complex under an ambitious plan for a new community health center to serve residents lacking adequate health insurance.

A new group called the Urban HealthCare Project has unveiled its plans for the center, to be located in the former Kaiser Permanente nursing home on Manchester Boulevard in Inglewood.

Kaiser Permanente, the state's largest health maintenance organization, announced last week that it is giving the $4.2-million complex to Urban HealthCare Project, which is run by a nonprofit corporation. The transfer represents the largest building donated by Kaiser Permanente in Southern California, officials said.

With the Inglewood complex as its cornerstone, the health care program hopes to serve Medi-Cal patients as well as people with little or no health insurance, said Dr. Jeffrie Miller, the project's chief executive officer.

"We wish to provide the population with greater (medical) access in southwest Los Angeles County," said Miller, who is also director of ambulatory care at Los Angeles County Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center.

Miller moved closer to that goal last week when the project acquired the former nursing home, which had 149 beds, on 1.53 acres of land just east of the Great Western Forum and Inglewood Park Cemetery. The property, which includes three buildings and a parking garage, will be renamed CityCare Center.

The program is expected to start in July with family practice, pediatrics and women's health care. The second and third phases, scheduled for early 1994, are to include day surgery, chemotherapy, specialty services and an urgent-care center for problems less serious than those requiring care in hospital emergency rooms.

In the program's first year, organizers hope to enroll about 2,000 people in a managed-care system similar to an HMO. By emphasizing primary care and prevention, they hope to keep people out of the county's overburdened emergency-room system.

Miller traces the project's start to a group of health-care professionals and community leaders who began meeting a year ago, only weeks after the riots.

Gathering weekly at Bethel A.M.E. Church, the group decided to focus on improving primary health care services in the southwest portion of the county. From that nucleus, the Urban HealthCare Project was born.

Playing a role in its formation were such organizations as UCLA and King/Drew medical centers, Rebuild L.A. and Mennonite Disaster Relief Services, organizers say.

The project's target area is bounded by Washington Boulevard on the north, La Cienega on the west and Figueroa Street on the east. Although Imperial Boulevard was the original southern border, Miller says the project plans to treat patients from the Hawthorne and Lawndale areas, as far south as Artesia Boulevard.

The Inglewood area is now underserved by the Los Angeles County health network, and the county Department of Health Services lacks funds to expand services, Miller said.

County staff members are providing the Urban HealthCare Project with information, said Fred Gadson, the health department's acting deputy director of health center operations. He called the project "consistent with our goal to get into private-public partnerships" to improve health services.

At a time when the medical world is dominated by talk of health networks and managed care, Miller said the Urban HealthCare Project will draw upon both concepts.

The project will use a managed-care system, much like a health maintenance organization. It plans to offer managed care to recipients of Medi-Cal, a program that serves the low-income and elderly. It also hopes to offer that plan to other community residents, who would pay an estimated $500 a year for the service.

Under managed care plans, patients choose from a limited number of primary care physicians who contract with the health care plan to keep costs down. Managed care is expected to be a key component of the Clinton Administration's health care reform package.

Organizers hope to raise money from private industry to help uninsured people join the CityCare plan or provide them with other heath services, said Gladys Jacques, vice chairwoman of the project's board of directors.

The project, which will also provide services on a traditional fee-for-service basis, will not employ its own doctors but will form alliances with doctors' groups such as HealthQuest 2000, a newly formed Hawthorne-based network of 150 physicians, including about 75 in the Inglewood area. It will also use doctors affiliated with King/Drew Medical Center.

T.H.E. Clinic for Women, a nonprofit clinic in the Crenshaw area, expects to provide medical services for women at Urban HealthCare in Inglewood.

"There's a huge unmet need," said Sylvia Drew Ivie, the clinic's executive director. "It's a very, very large underserved population in the Inglewood area."

It is still unclear exactly how Urban HealthCare will serve Medi-Cal patients. The project had hoped to contract with the state as a "primary-care case management" agency.

But the state has placed a moratorium on new contracts as it lays the foundation for a new managed-care system covering most of the state's 5 million Medi-Cal recipients. Now the project hopes to contract with the county to enroll Medi-Cal patients, Miller said.

Serving the underserved is a goal that the Urban HealthCare Project shares with an older organization, the Watts Health Foundation, founded after the 1965 Watts riots.

The new Inglewood program will offer services similar to those at the foundation's Watts Health Center, said Dr. Clyde Oden Jr., the foundation's president. But he said that his group is encouraging the new Urban HealthCare Project's development.

The relationship between the two groups is one of "collaboration and cooperation, not competition," Oden said. "There are not enough doctors, not enough health centers, not enough services in the community."

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