Hospital Officials Urge New Seismic Safety Assessment
Hospital industry officials are pressing the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to adopt a recommendation by the Hospital Building Safety Board that would use new software to assess which hospitals are considered the most unsafe in the event of an earthquake, the Sacramento Bee reports.
If lawmakers approve the plan, the deadline for many hospitals to meet state seismic safety standards could be extended from 2008 or 2013 until 2020 or 2030. The proposal could "potentially save the industry billions" of dollars "in the long run," the Bee reports.
The software, which was developed for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, would consider such factors as soil conditions, proximity to earthquake fault lines and the hospital location's history of earthquakes. The current method solely looks at a building's structure.
Hospital construction costs have increased by 66% in the past three years. Officials in 1994 estimated that the retrofit would cost the industry $14 billion by 2030, but current estimates place the cost at more than $50 billion.
Some lawmakers also have introduced legislation to extend the retrofit deadlines, such as SB 1661 by Sen. Dave Cox (R-Roseville). Under the bill, hospitals with a 2013 deadline would be able to seek a two year extension. The bill was approved by the Senate last week and now moves to the Assembly (Chan, Sacramento Bee, 5/23).