The CENTER FOR HEALTH AFFAIRS-GREATER CLEVELAND HOSPITAL ASSN. is an organization of Cleveland hospitals and health-care facilities which "develops and implements programs that assist members to provide quality service expeditiously and cost effectively." It was the first such hospital organization in the country to maintain a staff and meet regularly. The Cleveland Hospital Council, as the body was first known, grew out of a series of conferences in 1914 among representatives of 15 hospitals (see HOSPITALS AND HEALTH PLANNING). In 1916 the Cleveland Hospital Council was formally organized, with membership open to any public (not-for-profit) hospital. Among the 16 charter members were Lakeside Hospital, German Hospital (FAIRVIEW GENERAL HOSPITAL), ST. ALEXIS HOSPITAL, St. Clair Hospital, Lutheran Hospital (see LUTHERAN MEDICAL CENTER), City (Metropolitan General) Hospital, ST. LUKE'S HOSPITAL, ST. VINCENT CHARITY HOSPITAL & MEDICAL CENTER, Maternity Hospital, St. Ann's Hospital (see SAINT ANN FOUNDATION), Babies' Dispensary & Hospital, Huron Rd. Hospital (see MERIDIA HURON HOSPITAL), MT. SINAI MEDICAL CENTER, and ST. JOHN HOSPITAL. A full-time secretary coordinated the work of the council, composed of 2 representatives from each member hospital. Offices were first located in the Anisfield Bldg. In its early days, the Cleveland Hospital Council encouraged its members to examine hospitals' community role. Members agreed that hospital rates must reflect actual costs of services rendered, and adopted a standardized reporting system that became a national model. The council also successfully lobbied Cuyahoga County for per diem reimbursement for indigent patients. Through its first 3 decades, the council worked to standardize hospital administrative policies, procedures, and job descriptions.

The Cleveland Health Council conducted a Hospital & Health Survey in 1919 which found only 6 hospitals with out-patient departments, two-thirds of the population without prenatal care, and a 1,500 shortage of hospital beds. The council utilized the results to plan hospital expansion, promote better recording of vital statistics, and encourage the building of new water and sewage plants. The study, the first of many undertaken by the council, was viewed throughout the country as a model document in preventive medicine. The Joint Hospital Committee, which functioned from 1942-69, recommended building when appropriate. It was eventually replaced by the Regional Hospital Planning Board (initially the Metropolitan Health Planning Board). The group also set up a cooperative purchasing service in 1917, one of the first in the country. By improving hospital admission procedures and adding a collection service (1921), the Cleveland Health Council encouraged members to inquire about a patient's ability to pay before service was rendered and offered follow-up to ensure payment. During the Depression, the group developed the Hospital Finance Corp. of Cleveland, a low-interest, deferred-payment plan. The council sponsored John Mannix's hospitalization plan, the CLEVELAND HOSPITAL SERVICE ASSN., forerunner of BLUE CROSS OF NORTHEAST OHIO. The Cleveland Hospital Council also promoted employee education, disaster preparedness, and the development of health-career programs. The group worked with the Cleveland Board of Education and area colleges to prepare students for jobs in hospital food service, housekeeping, recordkeeping, physician assisting, and NURSING.

In 1969 the group expanded and changed its name to the Greater Cleveland Hospital Assn. (GCHA). After evaluation by the American Hospital Assn., the GCHA opened membership to long- and short-term facilities such as nursing homes and convalescent centers. The restated purpose was to aid health-care facilities in providing high-quality public service. With the restructuring, a larger role was given to the Board of Trustees and its executive council. Among the major concerns were employee relations and benefits and government relations. The group took over the administration of employee group life-insurance plans and a restructured pension plan in 1986, the most comprehensive pension program offered by any hospital association in the U.S. It covered over 20,000 employees in 31 institutions.

In response to the establishment of Medicare (1966), the GCHA initiated a dialogue between hospitals, community group representatives, and government officials, and published a monthly newsletter. In 1973 it applauded the development of the federally funded Cancer Data System to study the epidemiology of cancer in northeast Ohio. When funding ended in 1979, the association became affiliated with the Cancer Data System to provide a central registry of cancer information. In 1980 the group organized Health Ventures, Inc., an affiliated organization which served long-term care institutions. As hospital operations changed in the 1980s, the GCHA broadened its name to the Center for Health Affairs-Greater Cleveland Hospital Assn. Its board expanded to include representatives from business as well as health care. The association explored ways to deliver quality health care at a reasonable cost. In 1994 the Center for Health Affairs was located at 1226 Huron Rd. It offered such services as video-based patient and staff education, personnel consulting, material management, and the Central Hospital Services, Inc., debt collection agency (est. 1975 as the state's only shared debt-collection service), among others.


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