Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound incorporates on December 22, 1945.

  • By Walt Crowley
  • Posted 1/01/2000
  • Essay 2747
On December 22, 1945, the founding board of the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound (GHC) files incorporation papers with the State of Washington. The founders include Thomas G. Bevan, an official of the International Association of Machinists Lodge 751; Ella Williams, a leader in the King County Pomona Grange; and consumer cooperative pioneers Addison Shoudy (1900-1993), Stanley Erickson, and Victor G. Vieg.

Attorney and longtime activist Jack Cluck (d. 1983) served as corporate counsel. Despite its name, GHC was actually organized as a non-profit corporation with a member-elected board, not as a true cooperative in which members own equity shares.

Creation of Group Health was inspired by Dr. Michael Shadid, a crusading Lebanese-born physician who had established America's first cooperative hospital in Elk City, Oklahoma. Dr. Shadid first spoke to a small but eager Seattle audience on August 14, 1945, which led to organization of an exploratory "Seattle Hospital Committee" sponsored by local granges, unions, and cooperatives.

After an unsuccessful effort to acquire a surplus federal hospital in Renton, Group Health merged in 1946 with the existing physician-owned Medical Security Clinic in downtown Seattle. It also acquired the Clinic's aging St. Luke's Hospital on Capitol Hill (later renamed Group Health Hospital), and formally began caring for its few hundred original members on January 1, 1947. Group Health served more than 600,000 members across the state as of 2000.

Sources: Walt Crowley, To Serve the Greatest Number: A History of Group Health Cooperative of Seattle (Seattle: GHC/University of Washington Press, 1995), pp. 3-17.

Related Topics:   Government & Politics | Group Health | Health | Society

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