SEISMIC STANDARDS: Hospitals Look for Funds as Deadlines Loom
Hospital officials are meeting with state and federal lawmakers, hoping to secure funds for the costs of upgrading facilities to meet seismic standards, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports. More than 2,600 buildings at 473 hospitals need renovations to meet requirements mandated by the 1994 Hospitals Facilities Seismic Safety Act. Lawmakers passed the measure after the 1994 Northridge earthquake forced three hospitals to close and interrupted services at 28 Southern California hospitals. According to the California Healthcare Association, hospitals will need to shell out $10 billion to meet the law's 2008 standards, which require upgrades to prevent structural collapses. The association estimates that it will cost another $14 billion to meet the 2030 deadline that requires all hospitals to withstand an earthquake while maintaining patient care. Hospital officials contend that financially-strapped rural and inner-city hospitals are having difficulty finding the funds needed to meet the standards. CHA Head C. Duane Dauner said, "The cost of the repair exceeds the value of all existing state hospitals." Arguing that it is more logical to provide financial assistance now rather than after an earthquake, Dauner is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency for additional funds. To help offset some of the cost, the state Senate last week approved three bills that would remove or extend the deadlines for certain hospitals. However, some officials worry that the extensions could jeopardize public safety. Chris Tokas, a seismic expert for the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, said, "The 1994 law set time frames that were very fair. I take great exception when hospitals say they didn't have the time" (5/29).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.