Seismic Retrofit Requirements Fueling Hospital Construction
The New York Times on Wednesday examined the "multibillion-dollar construction boom" in California as hospitals work toward compliance with new state seismic retrofit requirements (Pristin, New York Times, 11/24). Under the seismic retrofit requirements, hospitals must guarantee by 2008 -- or by 2013 if they expect to continue to use their buildings for an additional 30 years -- that their buildings will not collapse in a major earthquake. By 2030, hospitals must guarantee that their buildings will not collapse in a major earthquake and will continue to function immediately afterward (California Healthline, 7/15).
The Times reports that many hospital administrators have opted to build new facilities instead of retrofitting older facilities. The Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development said it does not have an exact number of new hospital facilities under construction.
OSHPD estimates that hospitals are spending about $4.6 billion to comply with the requirements, with facilities in Los Angeles and Orange counties accounting for more than half of such expenditures. The California Healthcare Association, which previously estimated the cost of compliance to hospitals at about $24 billion, now says hospitals will pay significantly more than that, in part because of the increased cost of building materials, the Times reports.
Some construction managers say construction costs are about $450 per square foot for the new facilities, and construction costs are being further increased by a shortage of inspectors and the "high level of scrutiny imposed by" OSHPD, the Times reports.
According to the Times, hospitals including Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, the two hospital campuses of the University of California-Los Angeles and St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica that were damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake -- which provoked the hospital seismic standards -- qualified for federal and state disaster funding. Facilities such as St. John's also had access to "substantial" reserve funds and were able to raise significant funds from "celebrity patients and other private donors," the Times reports.
CHA says that compliance with the rules is more difficult for other hospitals, especially those in rural and low-income urban areas, because they lack borrowing power (New York Times, 11/24).