Doc­u­men­tary de­tails how Kansas City hos­pi­tals moved be­yond “sep­a­rate but equal” era,

Modern Healthcare - - Modern Healthcare -

Schools, buses and lunch coun­ters are set­tings that are of­ten associated with the civil rights strug­gle. The doc­trine of “sep­a­rate but equal” stained al­most ev­ery sig­nif­i­cant in­sti­tu­tion in Amer­i­can life, how­ever, and health­care fa­cil­i­ties were no ex­cep­tion. A new doc­u­men­tary film tells the story of how Kansas City, Mo., bridged the gap be­tween its Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal No. 1 for whites and Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal No. 2 for African-Amer­i­cans.

From Sep­a­rate to Equal: The Cre­ation of Tru­man Med­i­cal Cen­ter chron­i­cles the found­ing of the in­te­grated pub­lic health sys­tem from those two seg­re­gated hos­pi­tals. The film­maker, Kevin Will­mott, is an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Kansas at Lawrence.

As health­care in­te­grated, Will­mott says, “Most of the black hos­pi­tals just died. They were not in­cor­po­rated into white hos­pi­tals. I think that’s the thing that makes the Tru­man story unique.”

The 60-minute film ex­plores the se­cret meet­ings in the mid1950s be­tween the white as­sis­tant city man­ager, Al­bert Mauro Sr., and Dr. Sam Rogers, the lead­ing black physi­cian, that paved the way, Will­mott says. The im­pe­tus, as it so of­ten is in health­care con­sol­i­da­tion, was fi­nan­cial rather than the moral case for in­te­gra­tion, Will­mott says—the city sim­ply couldn’t af­ford sep­a­rate but equal any longer. Will­mott cred­its Mauro’s re­spect­ful ap­proach to Rogers and other African-Amer­i­can health­care providers: “If it had been some­one be­sides Mauro, it might not have been so suc­cess­ful.”

The im­por­tance of Tru­man’s found­ing con­tin­ues to res­onate in the per­son of John Blu­ford, Tru­man Med­i­cal Cen­ters’ pres­i­dent and CEO and the cur­rent chair­man of the Amer­i­can Hos­pi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion, Will­mott says. Blu­ford’s ca­reer started at a seg­re­gated South Carolina hos­pi­tal that he de­scribes in the film as not much more than a first-aid sta­tion that served the en­tire African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity, Will­mott says.

“To ar­rive to­day at a hos­pi­tal that is far more than what is called a safety net hos­pi­tal and to have an African-Amer­i­can head­ing that up is the Amer­i­can story,” he says.

To watch the film go to www.from­sep­a­rate­toe­qual.org.

The doc­u­men­tary tells how fi­nan­cial rea­sons helped spur the cre­ation of Tru­man.

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