Hospitals Lag in Meeting State Earthquake Safety Structural Requirements
Some hospitals in California are years or decades away from complying with state seismic safety statutes, including facilities that are located just a few dozen miles from the southern San Andreas Fault, the San Bernardino Sun reports.
State data show that hospitals are farther behind in meeting deadlines for making non-structural changes, such as fixing plumbing and securing back-up power, than they are for making structural changes.
The Sun reports that there is a 59% probability of at least one 6.7 magnitude earthquake or stronger in the next 30 years on the San Andreas Fault.
California's seismic safety law for hospitals focused on structural problems with the facilities, mandating that hundreds of older buildings be replaced or retrofitted to help protect patients in the event of an earthquake.
Lawmakers have delayed compliance deadlines to 2020 or 2030 at hospitals' request.
Most hospitals have until 2030 to carry out non-structural repairs and confirm they have sufficient back-up fuel, batteries, water and wastewater tanks to run for 72 hours after an earthquake.
Meanwhile, state officials have said that some hospitals might have completed upgrades already and that their statistics might not be up to date because hospitals generally are not required to report progress on non-structural work.
Recent international earthquakes have shown that even if a hospital's structure withstands an earthquake, the facility might face internal damage to equipment and pipes.
If only a handful of facilities become unusable after an earthquake, the loss could cause a significant disruption in care for communities near the southern San Andreas Fault, according to the Sun.
Hospital officials have said that while they want to make their facilities compliant with safety standards, the cost of making changes can be prohibitive.
Many hospital officials have said they need more time to comply with rebuilding and retrofitting mandates because they are facing financial issues from the economic recession, lower reimbursement rates and a greater number of patients without insurance.
The Sun story was produced with the California HealthCare Foundation's Center for Health Reporting. CHCF publishes California Healthline (Schoch, San Bernardino Sun, 10/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.