Report: Half of Hospitals at Seismic Risk Will Miss Deadline
Nearly 50% of California hospitals that face a risk of collapsing during a major earthquake will not meet the 2013 deadline to comply with state seismic safety standards, according to a report released Thursday by RAND and the California HealthCare Foundation, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
According to the report, the cost of upgrading or replacing the hospital buildings could cost $110 billion, compared with the $41 billion estimated in a 2002 report (Darcé, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/18). However, the report notes that it did not consider borrowing costs, which could double the expense (Silverstein, Los Angeles Times, 1/18).
RAND estimates that construction to comply with the state seismic safety regulations could result in an increase in the average daily cost of hospital care to $2,930 from $1,980 (Chan, Sacramento Bee, 1/18).
Buildings that must be replaced or retrofitted are on 305 hospital campuses statewide (AP/Los Angeles Daily News, 1/17). More than 80% of those facilities are in the San Francisco Bay Area or the greater Los Angeles area (Chang, Associated Press, 1/18).
The safety standards were the result of a 1994 state law (Los Angeles Times, 1/18). Lawmakers divided the state's hospitals into two categories: inpatient structures that face a risk of collapsing during a major earthquake and hospital structures that are at risk of damage in a large earthquake (San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/18). The 2013 deadline applies to hospitals in the first category.
All hospitals by 2030 must be able to remain open and treat patients after an earthquake (AP/Los Angeles Daily News, 1/17). However, the report also notes that many hospitals might not meet that deadline.
Charles Meade, the report's lead author and a senior physical scientist at RAND, said it would take at least 30 years to rebuild the hospitals to meet the state's standards (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/18).
According to the Bee, about 40 million to 70 million square feet of hospital space needs to be replaced or retrofitted over the next 23 years. However, hospitals are capable of bringing into operation 1.5 million to two million square feet of space annually (Sacramento Bee, 1/18).
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in his health care reform proposal last week said he supports using new software developed by the federal government to re-evaluate which hospitals must be rebuilt to comply with the seismic standards (California Healthline, 1/16).
The governor's proposal also would create an additional category of hospital buildings that would face a 2020 deadline for repairs or replacement (San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/18).
Jan Emerson, spokesperson for the California Hospital Association, said almost half of the hospitals in California are operating "in the red" (Sacramento Bee, 1/18). She added that many hospitals "know they have no way of financing this and don't know what to do" (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/18).
However, Beth Capell, a health care analyst at the Service Employees International Union, criticized RAND's cost estimate and said hospitals "have continued to try to get rid of the requirements to have safe buildings" (Sacramento Bee, 1/18).
The authors of the report on Friday will present the report to legislative staff members. The authors said policymakers could extend the deadlines, keep the current schedule and experience hospital closures, or provide public funding to subsidize the retrofitting costs (Vesely, San Jose Mercury News, 1/18).