A Flourishing Partnership – the Hoag Hospital Journey
by Beryl Smith
Another car crash in the nighttime fog along the winding Pacific Coast Highway. Another race against time by the ambulance to rush the injured occupants 12 miles to the nearest hospital in Santa Ana or Orange. It was the same story for all medical emergencies in the coastal communities. Too often the result was another eulogy at another funeral.
The Rev. Raymond J. Brahams, pastor at the Community Presbyterian Church in Laguna Beach, left the crash scene vowing to do something to bring medical care closer. Like any well-schooled Presbyterian, he called a meeting. Seven members of his church and one medical doctor answered the call. They determined that the coast needed a hospital. The year was 1944.
Now, the largest and best-known bearer of the name “Presbyterian” in Orange County is not a community of congregations, but Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian. Yet, many Presbyterians probably do not know its story or its impact on their health care.
As of 2019, Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian has two acute care hospitals, eight health centers, eleven urgent care centers, and seventeen medical groups. Altogether, Hoag served 30,000 inpatients and 450,000 outpatients in 2018. They manage 1,700 physicians, 6,000 employees, and 2,000 volunteers. To reach additional communities, several more medical facilities are nearing completion. On every facility there is a small cross and a quote from the Psalms: “May the Lord guard thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”
As a non-profit, faith-based hospital, the mission of Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian is to provide the highest quality health care services to the communities it serves. Its endeavors have earned it the designation this year (and on four previous occasions) as one of 100 Great Hospitals in the United States. It has also been named by U.S. News and World Report as one of the Best Regional Hospitals for 2018 – 2019. This is in addition to awards for a number of its departments and services.
Programs that are likely to be of special interest to PC(USA) congregations are:
- the Pastoral Care Department, headed by a member of the presbytery, and its chaplaincy training program; and
- programs known broadly as Community Benefit Programs. These include the well known and respected Faith Health Ministries program (formerly known as the Parish Nurse Program); the Melinda Hoag Smith Center for Healthy Living that pulls together under one roof a number of support programs such as SOS; the mental health program, including the ASPIRE program for despondent teenagers; Project Wipeout (an educational program on safety at the beach); and the Allen Diabetes Center Programs, started by a presbyterian family.
Additional already existing community programs qualify for grant aid and hospital cooperation, including a mobile health van, and social workers checking on people in homeless camps. The hospital recently offered the Newport Beach City Council a 10-year grant toward a housing program for the city’s homeless. And millions of dollars in uncompensated care are a huge community benefit, as well.
Not everyone in Los Ranchos Presbytery will receive health care from a Hoag doctor or clinic. But every PC(USA) and ECO church in Orange County does delegate two elders to serve on the Association of Presbyterian Members, or APM (formerly the Presbyterian Hospital of Orange County board). These elder representatives have the opportunity to engage their sessions, and by extension, their congregations, with reports from the APM. No doubt commissioners to our last presbytery meeting appreciated an update on the Faith-based nursing program with its seasonal flu shots, blood pressure checks, etc, and may have been inspired to participate, if they do not already.
The APM really appreciates the talent church sessions send to it. They are forming new committees this year to observe and interact with the committees of the Governing Board. These will be: Governance, Faith Oversight, Communications, Quality of Hospital Services, and Finance and Audit. Delegates with special skill in any of these areas would be most welcome. Through its representatives to the APM, churches in Los Ranchos Presbytery can be supportive of the excellence for which Hoag is known and always strives.
Presbyterians in Orange County can be proud of Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, and leaders of both the hospital and the presbytery can only gain from being partners in the spiritual and physical health care offered to all communities in Orange County.