Report Finds Many Hospitals Need Extensive Seismic Retrofitting
Nearly four out of 10 California acute care hospital buildings "pose a significant risk of collapse and danger to the public after a strong earthquake," according to a new report from the Statewide Office of Health Planning and Development (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 3/29). Under revised seismic standards established after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, all hospitals must "assure 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," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. By 2030, hospitals must be able to withstand a major earthquake and "continue functioning immediately afterward" (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/29). The state study compiled mandatory reports from 430 acute care hospitals that encompass roughly 2,500 buildings and found that in addition to the 39% of hopsitals that pose a significant risk of collapse, 72% "fail to meet state requirements for anchoring basic systems essential to life safety and patient care" (Simerman, Contra Costa Times, 3/29). In addition, almost 50% of the hospitals "will have to be upgraded or replaced to meet" the 2030 standards. Here is a breakdown by county of teh number of hospitals that fall into the "significant risk of collapse" category:
- San Francisco: 61%
- San Mateo: 51%
- Santa Clara: 41%
- Contra Costa: 15% (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/29).
- Los Angeles: more than 50%
- Orange and Ventura: 33% (Rohrlich, Los Angeles Times, 3/29).
Dr. David Carlisle, director of the planning agency, said, "These numbers provide us for the first time with some actual knowledge of the seismic integrity of California hospitals. Prior to this, we had no idea what we were dealing with" (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/29).
According to the Contra Costa Times, the report "sets the stage for a high-stakes political debate" over who should pay for hospital upgrades and whether the deadlines for improvements "should be shoved back or scrapped" (Contra Costa Times, 3/29). Industry officials have estimated that it will cost hospitals $12 billion to meet the 2008 deadline and $24 billion to meet the 2030 deadline. And the seismic regulations come at a time when two-thirds of hospitals statewide are losing money. The California Healthcare Association has requested that $4 billion to $5 billion in bonds be issued to help hospitals meet the 2008 deadline, and lawmakers are considering legislation that would relieve some of the financial burden (Los Angeles Times, 3/29). Sen. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo) has introduced a bill (SB 842) that would "delete the deadline requirements" and give hospitals more time to retrofit their facilities. Assembly member Dion Aroner (D-Berkeley) also has proposed legislation that "would establish conditions and priorities for the use of taxpayer money" for seismic upgrades. However, critics contend that the industry has engaged in "foot-dragging on safety upgrades." Sal Rosselli, president of Service Employees International Union Local 250, said, "I think [the hospitals] are trying to panic lawmakers into either postponing these deadlines, or giving them public funds" (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/29). To view the full report, go to http://www.oshpd.state.ca.us/specialnotices/sb1953rating.pdf. Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat to view the report.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.