First Kaiser Permanente Hospital in what would become Silicon Valley
Kaiser Permanente’s Santa Clara Medical Center turned 50 years old on July 8, 2014. The complex, now at Homestead Road and Lawrence Expressway, was originally on a street christened “Kaiser Drive”, off of Kiely, in the middle of a huge orchard. Aerial photos from 1964 show the hospital surrounded by neat rows of fruit trees.
The original building was seven stories high, had 158 patient beds, and featured open-air “lanai” walkways on each floor for visitors and families of patients. Patient rooms opened onto the lanai, and also had a door to a central corridor on each floor, where nurses and physicians would work.
Nurse stations were close to a set of rooms and set up so nurses “would have to walk only 20 steps to get to each room,” according to a Kaiser Permanente document from 1964. The hospital was built for $5-and-a-half million dollars and was home to 66 physicians on opening day July 8, 1964.
Each patient room had a bedside console, where a patient could summon or communicate with the nurse, lock the visitor door from the lanai for privacy, choose a TV station, and turn the lights on or off. A switch opened or close the electrically-operated drapes.
The Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara hospital also had the famous “baby-in-a-drawer” system in the Mother/Baby unit: newborns were placed in drawer-like cribs in the nursery, which was right next to the mother’s room. When mom wanted to feed or hold the infant, she opened what looked like a drawer in the wall and out rolled baby. After feeding or if mom needed rest, she could replace the infant in the drawer and close it, returning the baby to the nursery side of the wall.
The medical center cared for 45,000 Kaiser Permanente members, many of them insured by the aerospace industry.
“Times and medicine have certainly changed,” said Chris Boyd, Senior Vice President and Area Manager of the new Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center. “We’ve been Thrive-ing for 50 years and now into the future.”
The original hospital was decommissioned in 2007, when Kaiser Permanente moved into a new facility a mile-and-a-half north. The new complex was built for $700-million, has more than 300 patient beds and more than 700 physicians. It is a center for advanced pediatric care and heart surgery, and serves 300,000 Kaiser Permanente members in the Silicon Valley.
It is built on 52 acres, ironically, a former orchard in Santa Clara.