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UH and RNC Have Shared History in Cleveland

Physician Update - June 2016

By Cliff Megerian, MD, President, University Hospitals Physician Services

This year is a tremendously historic one for University Hospitals, as it is for the city of Cleveland. As we celebrate our 150th anniversary, the eyes of the world will be on our city as it hosts the Republican National Convention in July.

But UH was already a strong presence in Cleveland 80 years ago, when the last convention – also Republican – was held here. In 1936, just as this year, Cleveland hosted the GOP convention, while Philadelphia was home to the Democratic gathering.

That June, the GOP convened in Cleveland to nominate Kansas governor Alf Landon to challenge the popular Democratic incumbent President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Although Landon was widely known as the Kansas governor, he was actually a native of what is now considered the Youngstown metropolitan area. Landon didn’t travel to Cleveland for the convention, staying at home in Topeka (a not uncommon practice for conventions at that time). Instead, former President Herbert Hoover came to Cleveland as the party’s elder statesman, proclaiming his support for Landon to the 1,001 Republican delegates.

Landon was trounced by Roosevelt that November, garnering only eight electoral votes to Roosevelt’s 523.

Few people know that 1936 was actually the second time that the Republican convention was held here. In 1924, the GOP convention in Cleveland was the first-ever to be broadcast on radio. Calvin Coolidge, who had become president on the death of native Ohioan Warren G. Harding, was the nominee. Coolidge did not attend the convention, although 1,109 delegates did, at Cleveland’s Public Hall. Instead, he stayed in Washington and listened to the proceedings on the radio, complete with musical entertainment provided by John Philip Sousa and his band.

Coolidge went on to win the presidency that year.

Even by the time of that first Cleveland convention in 1924, UH was a stalwart provider of medical care in Cleveland, then as a 58-year-old institution.

Again this year, UH will be a presence at the RNC as one of the designated health care providers for attendees.

True, this year’s convention may be more riveting than those held in recent years. But contentious political party gatherings are not new – nor is the skewering and name-calling of nominees. (Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson, for example, were the subjects of vicious jibes.)

What does make this convention different – if not unprecedented - is how the power of social media exponentially multiplies the attention that will be paid to the proceedings, as well as to possible protests in Cleveland. Adding to that is the presence of a notoriously non-traditional nominee.

Which brings me to an important point. Being employed by UH does not mean anyone gives up his or her right to free speech. However, UH employees should be sure that as they express themselves, they make it profoundly clear that they are not speaking as representatives of UH.

The focus of our efforts is on our ability to respond as a health system to the needs of patients under any circumstances. Leading up to the RNC, we will provide you with more specifics about our disaster plans. In the meantime, let us know if you have questions related to preparedness at your hospital.

On a more personal note, we know to expect certain disruptions by massive security efforts that go along with a 50,000-plus influx of visitors at one time. To be prepared for disruptions or extra-long commutes, we encourage you to always carry two forms of photo identification, have close to a full tank of gasoline in your car and carry plenty of bottled water.

We are confident that through all our preparations and with the engagement of leaders across our health system, UH will rise up with Cleveland and our region to excel as the host site for this major national event.

And, just as the previous conventions did, this one in the summer of 2016 will garner us a place in 21st century history.

Preparations in Place

As far as UH preparedness, we know that Cleveland’s hosting the Republican National Convention comes with responsibilities for our health system. A multidisciplinary task force has been working to prepare UH to deliver the highest-quality care in the event of illnesses or injuries during the week of July 18.

Our preparations include readiness for a large-scale disaster that could possibly involving hundreds or even thousands of trauma cases. Such an incident could require a systemwide response, and we are seeking everyone’s support in planning for preparedness at your medical center.

Please ensure with your entity leaders, clinicians and medical center staff that:

  • Each department has an updated Departmental Emergency Operation Plan
  • Supervisors can reach employees if the need for emergency staffing should occur
  • Every employee has completed the online Active Shooter training program
  • Your facility is offering Code Silver departmental drills