California Board OKs Rules for New Hospital Building Evaluations
On Wednesday, the California Building Standards Commission voted unanimously to approve the use of a new software tool to determine which California hospitals will have to be rebuilt by 2013 to meet state seismic safety rules, the Contra Costa Times reports (Bohan, Contra Costa Times, 11/15).
The Federal Emergency Management Agency developed the software, called HAZUS, application in the 1990s to assess buildings' structural susceptibility to natural disasters. In gauging the safety of hospital facilities, the tool will consider factors including:
- Buildings' distance from fault lines;
- Makeup of soil hospitals are built on; and
- Structural safety of hospital buildings.
Previous assessments considered only the construction date and quality of hospital buildings (Sacramento Business Journal, 11/14). About 1,100 hospitals throughout California were found to be at high risk of major damage in an earthquake and faced a 2013 deadline to retrofit buildings or construct new facilities (Chan, Sacramento Bee, 11/15).
If hospital facilities are not considered high-risk after an assessment using the new software, they will not have to be rebuilt or retrofitted until 2030 (San Diego Union-Tribune, 11/15).
The emergency regulations will take place once they are formally filed by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (Thompson, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 11/15).
State officials and the California Hospital Association expect the number of hospitals found to be at high risk to be reduced by about half using the new assessment tool. Officials project that the change could save the hospital industry about $4.6 billion in construction costs (San Diego Union-Tribune, 11/15).
Jan Emerson, a spokesperson for the California Hospital Association, said hospitals that already have completed structural engineering reports could get a ruling on whether they will be eligible for the delay until 2030 in just a few weeks. Other facilities will have to wait several months while engineers conduct the assessment, according to Emerson (Contra Costa Times, 11/15).
Dave Walls, director of the building standards commission, said no one testified against the proposal at the meeting (San Diego Union-Tribune, 11/15).
However, Richard Thomason of the Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers union said the group would urge hospitals to retrofit facilities that are considered to be at high risk of damage in an earthquake (Sacramento Bee, 11/15).
On Tuesday, the California Nurses Association criticized the proposal, saying it could increase risks to public safety (Contra Costa Times, 11/15).