In deciding where to live, most parents typically consider the quality and proximity of amenities like schools and parks in the neighborhood. But what about hospitals – how important is it to have a good hospital near one’s home? In their book The City Parent Handbook , authors Kathy Bishop and Julia Whitehead explain why hospitals with pediatric emergency departments are absolutely critical and tell parents that they must know where the closest ones are. They point out that there are over 31 million child and adolescent emergency room visits annually, translating to 41 visits for every 100 kids. This means that the odds are high that many parents will have to make a dreaded ER visit. Fortunately, urban medical centers, especially children’s hospitals, in the United States are among the best in the world. In most cases, residents in major cities can easily access pediatric specialists in a variety of fields such as allergies, cardiology and cancer, and learning and physical disabilities.
Frankly, I did not think much about hospitals when my wife and I were looking to buy a condominium a few years ago. However, as soon-to-be-parents, we are so glad that we live within walking distance of Good Samaritan Hospital, which is located just outside Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) and offers comprehensive maternity services. Preparing for the arrival of our first child has been stressful at times, but one thing that we are not worried about is getting to the hospital for delivery. We have already walked there numerous times for childbirth preparation classes and doctor’s appointments. It is also a relief to know that in the event of an emergency, we do not need to travel far or deal with traffic to obtain medical care. Understandably, a concern that some may have about living close to a hospital is the siren noise and traffic disruptions caused by ambulances. This has not been a problem for us because access to Good Samaritan’s ER is off 6th Street, rather than Wilshire Boulevard.
Not only is Good Samaritan our local hospital, the 408-bed facility is also a well-known academic medical center affiliated with both USC and UCLA Schools of Medicine. Although built in 1976, the main hospital has been retrofitted to be seismic compliant. Each year, Good Samaritan admits about 17,000 patients (excluding newborns) and handles more than 93,500 outpatient visits. Over 4,000 deliveries and 8,000 surgeries are performed annually at the hospital.
The history of Good Samaritan Hospital is fascinating and is well-documented in historian David L. Clark’s book A History of Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, 1885-2010: A Tradition of Caring. The hospital began modestly in 1885 when Sister Mary Wood established a nine-bed facility inLos Angeles. In 1886 St. Paul’s Episcopal Church entered into an agreement with the California Diocese to assume control of the facility, and renamed it The Los Angeles Hospital and Home for Invalids. Later that year, a good Samaritan, Mrs. Severance, donated funds to purchase a new property for larger quarters, and the hospital was subsequently renamed in her honor. In 1911 the hospital moved to its current location on Wilshire Boulevard. Good Samaritan has grown ever since, continually adding facilities to better serve the city’s increasing population. Sadly, the hospital was also where then senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy died in 1968 after being shot at The Ambassador Hotel.
It is important that Good Samaritan continue to improve and expand to meet the needs of a growing DTLA population. With the future in mind, the hospital recently started the construction of the Good Samaritan Medical Plaza and Outpatient Pavilion. This facility is intended to meet the increasing need for outpatient services. Many patients who once required an overnight hospital stay can now receive their surgical care at outpatient facilities, return home the same day, and enjoy faster and safer periods of recovery. The new 190,000-square-foot building is scheduled for completion in 2014. Groundbreaking took place in October 2011 for the $80 million facility that will include an outpatient surgical center, a pharmacy, and five levels of physicians’ offices. International architectural firm Ware Malcomb is overseeing the design, while Millie and Severson (general contractors) is handling construction.
Cedars Sinai Medical Center is working on a similar, but larger project: the new 11-story, 450,000 square-foot Advanced Health Sciences Pavilion, currently under construction at the corner of San Vicente and Gracie Allen. The new Pavilion is the latest building to be constructed under a 30-year Master Plan for the Medical Center campus, originally approved by the City of Los Angeles with a zone change and a development agreement in 1993. The new building, designed by global architecture and planning firm HOK, will house clinical care, outpatient procedures, scientific research, and parking. For those interested, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) is offering a hard hat tour of this facility on June 26, 2012. The speakers will discuss the Master Plan approval process, the changing health care needs of the patient populations, and the ways the Master Plan and the Pavilion are responding to those changing needs. For more information, please visit Cedars Sinai Case Study and Site Tour.
Hospitals are critical amenities, especially for families with children. To its credit, Los Angeles is home to some of the finest hospitals in the country, including Good Samaritan and Cedars Sinai. As a soon-to-be-dad, I feel very fortunate to be living close to one of them. As a planner, I am excited to see how these hospitals continually improve and expand through projects like the two mentioned above to meet the growing and changing health care needs of the population.
Photos of Good Samaritan Hospital by Clement Lau