Hospitals Struggle with Regulations
California hospitals are struggling to comply with state- sanctioned seismic standards, which could cost an estimated $20 billion by 2030, USA Today reports. The first deadline for California hospitals is Jan. 1, when administrators must tell the state how "vulnerab[le]" their buildings are to earthquakes. One year later, they must submit their plans for repairing the facilities. By 2008, all hospitals will need to be strengthened "to prevent collapse in large earthquakes," and by 2030 hospitals must ensure that facilities' plumbing, lighting and elevators will be operational after an earthquake. Paying for these repairs with "little help from the state or federal government" is going to be a "crisis" for many hospitals, USA Today reports. Roger Richter of the California Hospital Association said, "Hospitals are supportive of seismic safety. It's just a matter of making it affordable. Without some relief, I have no doubt that some hospitals will close." Pointing to the $20 billion price tag, Gordon Howie of Paine Webber in San Francisco said, "That's as much as the health care industry spent in the last decade on all capital expenditures in California." Without federal or state financial assistance, many hospitals will have to rely on the bond market, cash reserves or private donations to pay for the seismic upgrades. However, Howie estimates that "half to three-quarters" of hospitals statewide will be unable to finance the repairs in the bond market because they "won't be able to convince people they can pay it back." Bruce Lamoreux, CEO of Santa Monica-based St. John's Medical Center, said, "The Legislature created the law, but they didn't think about how it would be subsidized. It feels good that hospitals will be held to a higher standard of safety, but how many of us are willing to pay for that?" (Appleby, USA Today, 11/7).