Sacramento Hospitals Question Need for Costly Seismic Upgrades
With state-mandated seismic retrofitting expected to cost Sacramento-area hospitals at least $180 million, some are questioning the need for such upgrades at a time when hospitals are struggling financially, the Sacramento Bee reports. Half of the area's 15 hospitals may be forced to close "at least one wing or building" if seismic upgrades are not completed by 2008, as required by law, according to documents hospitals submitted to the state last year. Those documents are expected to be released later this week as part of an Office of Statewide Hospital Planning and Development report on the structural condition of the state's hospitals. Under the law, hospitals must complete by 2008 upgrades that will enable the facilities to remain standing after a major earthquake, and by 2030, the facilities must be able to "remain fully operational." Sacramento hospital officials say that their facilities "have a long way to go" to meet those standards, and they are "questioning" the need for such strict regulations. Robert David, regional vice president of the Hospital Council, said, "Sacramento has far less risk of a major quake than San Francisco or Los Angeles, yet the law applies here just as it does there. We have to look at how much more safety we're buying for this money." Noting that the upgrade regulations are an "unfunded mandate," Jan Emerson, a spokesperson for the California Healthcare Association, said that some hospitals may close because of "insurmountable retrofit costs." Industry officials are lobbying the state for "money and more time" to bring the hospitals into compliance. Emerson added, "If there is not some assistance from the state to help bring the hospitals into compliance, there is potential concern with access to care" (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 3/20).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.