Harris County Hospital District was created by voter referendum in
November 1965 and formally came into being as a political subdivision
with taxing authority on January 1, 1966. The new district replaced an
existing city-county system in which the two governmental bodies shared
funding responsibility. Annually at budget time, controversy arose
between the two entities as each accused the other of not providing an
equal share of budget dollars for the Hospital District. Therefore,
before formation of the Hospital District, public health for the city
and county's indigent and needy citizens was hit-or-miss. Doctors served
on a contract basis.
Today the Harris County Hospital District provides access to
cost-effective, quality health care delivered in a compassionate manner
to all residents of Harris County regardless of their ability to pay.
The Hospital District is
governed by a board of managers appointed by the Harris County
Commissioners Court. In the Hospital District's inaugural year, the
seven-member Board requested a 1966 operating budget of $7 Million, but
was forced to return to Commissioners Court after one month for an
increase. The annual operating budget was increased to $23 Million.
In 1985 Public Law 281
was revised to increase the Board of Managers from seven to nine members
to better represent the ethnic mix of the community.
A health care
charity unit was established in Houston at the St. Joseph Infirmary. Twenty-one years later a city-county hospital opened, and in 1924 the
150-bed Jefferson Davis Hospital was built at 1101 Elder Street.
A new Jefferson Davis Hospital was constructed on the south bank of
Buffalo Bayou on Allen Parkway. The 11-storey, 500-bed Jefferson Davis
Hospital, which replaced the old Elder Street facility, was financed
with a $2.5 Million bond.
Jeff Davis had no
intensive care units; patients were treated in open wards. The trauma
center consisted of one shock room, two treatment rooms, and two holding
areas. In 1949, Baylor College of Medicine agreed to provide medical
services to Jeff Davis Hospital.
The annual budget debate raged at the City of Houston. A city council
member proposed to cut the portion of the budget set aside for Jeff
Davis Hospital. In response, author and Jeff Davis hospital volunteer
Jan De Hartog composed an editorial for the Houston Chronicle on
April 21, 1963, a paragraph of which follows:
I would like to show him
the emergency room, where I have worked as volunteer orderly for eight
months now: the hall with the stretchers that are never empty, the two
dark wards in the back where, because of the lack of staff, the sick,
the drunk, the desperate and the dying are often ditched into the cold
sagging beds fully dressed...
The City fully funded
its portion of the Hospital's budget that year.
In May the newly
constructed 431-bed Ben Taub General Hospital opened, replacing the
overcrowded Jefferson Davis as the county's general hospital. The
hospital was named for Mr. Ben Taub, a longtime advocate for healthcare
of the indigent. Ben Taub's high standard of emergency care had been set
in the 1940s at Jefferson Davis, when that hospital emerged as a trauma
center because of the high number of Harris County citizens taken there
with serious injuries.
default, Jeff Davis had developed into Houston's major trauma center
because such a high volume of badly injured citizens were taken there.
Jeff Davis thus set care standards when Ben Taub Hospital was built in
The American College of
Surgeons and the Texas Department of Health designated Ben Taub
Hospital's Trauma Center as the first Level I Trauma Center in South
Author Jan De Hartog published a book describing the horrific squalor
and neglect he had witnessed while volunteering in Houston's local
De Hartog's book The Hospital created such a public furor
that the Texas Legislature passed an act to allow Harris County citizens
to consider creating a hospital district. At the next election, voters
voiced their strong support for public health care by passing the ballot
item by a 2-to-1 margin, thus creating a hospital district and ensuring
a more predictable funding source.
A newly appointed Board of Managers collaborated with the Community
Medicine Department of Baylor College of Medicine to determine how best
to reduce the tremendously heavy volume of non-emergency cases seen at
the Hospital District's two general hospitals. The Harris County
Hospital District, in cooperation with Baylor, created the Community
Health Center Program to provide non-emergency primary care close to
patients' homes. By 1968, the first two community health care clinics
opened. During the next 29 years, 12 clinics were opened throughout
Dr. Carlos Vallbona, director of Baylor's Community Medicine, received a
grant of $525,000 to teach new doctors about health care outside the
hospital setting. Dr. Vallbona used the Community Health Centers to
launch his program.
Quentin Mease Community Hospital, a 48-bed facility, was added to the
Hospital District's health care system. Named for Harris County
Hospital District's long-time chairman of the Board of Managers, Quentin Mease Hospital specializes in geriatrics and long-term physical
rehabilitation. The facility was named to honor Mr. Quentin Mease for 25
years of service as a member of the Board of Managers. Mr. Mease served
as chairman of the board for 19 of those years.
The Thomas Street Health Center, a Southern Pacific railroad hospital
facility owned by Harris County, was given lease-free to the Hospital
District as an outpatient facility for HIV/AIDSinfected patients. It
was the first free-standing HIV/AIDS center in the United States. In its
first year Thomas Street saw some 800 patients; today there are 4,400. The historic center offers general medicine, outpatient IV therapy,
pharmacy, blood transfusions, chemotherapy, oncology, radiology,
psychiatry, rheumatology and dermatology.
Lyndon B. Johnson
General Hospital opened in June 1989 in Houston's near-north side.
Before that time the county's northeast quadrant had no sophisticated
health care delivery facility. When the new 324-bed facility opened, the
51-year-old Jefferson Davis Hospital was closed. LBJ was the first
hospital in Texas to receive an official designation as a Level III
emergency center. It is a teaching
site for the University
of Texas Medical School at Houston and is staffed by UT's faculty and
residents. LBJ Hospital is known for its excellence in obstetric,
neonatal and oncology care.
In January the newly
constructed 578-bed Ben Taub General Hospital replaced the old Ben Taub
facility. Located adjacent to its namesake, the newer pavilion has
755,000 square feet of space.
World-renowned Ben Taub excels in surgery, physical therapy, pediatrics,
obstetrics, and neonatology, and has a full complement of specialty
With the Houston Fire Department, Ben Taub has one of the world's
finest emergency care systems. Nearly 80% of HFD's life-threatening
ambulance runs come to Ben Taub's Trauma Center, which provides all
medical and surgical specialties around the clock.
Integrated Health Care
The Harris County
Hospital District provided integrated health care to the community long
before this approach was adopted by other hospitals.
In the 1950s, Mr. Ben
Taub, chairman of the board of Jefferson Davis Hospital, contacted Dr.
Michael DeBakey, then-chairman of surgery at Baylor College of Medicine.
The two devised a plan to make Jeff Davis Hospital a teaching facility
for Baylor. Thus began a unique relationship that was later expanded to
include The University of Texas Health Science Center Houston.
Baylor College of
Medicine faculty and residents staff Ben Taub General Hospital, Quentin
Mease Community Hospital, and six community health centers, while The
University of Texas Health Science Center staffs LBJ Hospital and five
community centers. The Thomas Street Clinic is jointly staffed by both
Baylor and The University of Texas.
In an effort to better meet the health care
needs of the community, the Harris County Hospital District, in
conjunction with five school districts, has established seven school-based
clinics in areas of the community that need it most. HCHD's school-based
clinics provide health care to children in neighborhoods with limited
healthcare services, and enable early detection of illness and
intervention, as well as help promote children's health issues.
the goal of improving the health of the medically underserved pediatric
population of Harris County, the Harris County Hospital District operates
the TroubleShooting for Health Mobile Program.
The Hospital District
historically has recognized the importance of integrating primary health
care into the lives of the public, including the homeless population.
Begun in 1986, the Harris County Hospital District's Homeless Program,
whose goal is to avoid long-term health problems and costly
hospitalizations for the homeless, is entirely grant-funded. Medical
personnel staff 11 area shelters for the homeless, providing assessment,
referral and immunization services.
Recognizing that patient
care reaches beyond medical care, the Hospital District has a tradition
of attention to patients' and families' social and spiritual needs.
Department is a critical part of the integrated system. Hospital
District chaplains are available on-site or on-call throughout the
hospitals and clinics. The department offers several training options in
clinical pastoral education, including a year-long residency with a
clinical, pastoral and educational focus. Students from around the world
come to the Harris County Hospital District to receive this training.
Social Services in the
Harris County Hospital District might be called a bridge in the
continuum of care. Social workers help patients and their families cope
with illness and learn about healthy lifestyles; they also are skilled
in crisis intervention and counseling.
Board of Managers
The Harris County Hospital District is governed by a
nine-member Board of Managers appointed to two-year, extendible terms by
the county's commissioner's court.
According to the Board of Managers bylaws, the Board
will concern itself primarily with matters of policy, seeking advice
from the medical staff members and whatever other sources it deems
The Board of Managers meets monthly in committees and in
public and executive sessions. Board committees include audit oversight,
technology oversight, buildings and property, clinic, fiscal affairs,
joint conference, personnel, and public affairs.
and Chief Executive Officer
The Board of Managers
appoints and delegates to the President and CEO administrative
responsibilities. According to the Texas Health and Safety Code, the CEO
supervises all work and activities of the Hospital District and has
general direction of the District within limitations that may be
prescribed by the Board of Managers.