Office of the Attorney General Issues Formal Consent in Santa Barbara Hospital Purchase Agreement
The Office of the Attorney General on Friday issued formal consent for Santa Barbara-based Cottage Health System to purchase St. Francis Medical Center, a Catholic Healthcare West hospital, for about $18 million, the Los Angeles Times reports. Deputy Attorney General Wendi Horwitz said that the sale is "in the public interest" and would not have a "significant anti-competitive" effect on local health care. St. Francis, a 95-year-old, 85-bed hospital, has lost about $7 million this fiscal year and faces $20 million in seismic retrofit upgrades. The hospital plans to close by June 18. As part of the purchase agreement, Cottage would have to provide larger emergency services and 25 additional surgery beds. Cottage also plans to make a $350 million expansion of the facility, which will result in an about 435,000 square feet of construction on the west side of Santa Barbara. Cottage officials hope to use the seven-acre St. Francis site to build a 130-unit housing development for hospital employees. However, the sale "still faces many obstacles before it can move through the city's planning process," the Times reports (Overend, Los Angeles Times, 6/8).
In other hospital news, the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday examined the impact of seismic retrofit requirements enacted after the 1994 Northridge earthquake (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/8). Under revised seismic standards, all hospitals must guarantee that their buildings won't collapse in a significant quake by 2008 -- 2013 if the buildings are expected to remain in use 30 years from now. By 2030, hospitals must be able to withstand a major earthquake and "continue functioning immediately afterward" (California Healthline, 3/29/01). The requirements have "caused a frenzy of hospital building and reconstruction that will cost billions of dollars and will reshape how health care is delivered for decades," according to the Chronicle. All 470 acute-care hospitals in the state must meet the requirements by 2030. However, about 38% of the facilities must rebuild, retrofit or close buildings at a "significant risk of collapse" in a large earthquake by 2008, or 2013 in some cases. Hospitals such as San Francisco General Hospital, the Mission Bay and Parnassus Heights buildings at UCSF Medical Center and the California Pacific Medical Center face "massive overhaul" or demolition and reconstruction plans, the Chronicle reports. Many hospitals have decided to construct new buildings that not only meet seismic retrofit requirements but also provide modern amenities, such as single-patient rooms, space for technology and more efficient floor plans. The California Healthcare Association estimates the total cost of compliance with the requirements at about $24 billion. The state "will be heavily invested" in hospital construction for the next decade, the Chronicle reports (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/8).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.