SEISMIC STANDARDS: NPR Reports ‘Grim Prognosis’ for Some Hospitals
NPR's "All Things Considered" reports that a California law passed in 1994 requiring hospitals to be "earthquake safe," will cost billions more dollars than anticipated. NPR reporter Kathy McAnally said that the prognosis is "grim" for some hospitals, particularly facilities that serve rural and inner-city communities. For example, in Los Angeles County, where the emergency care system is in financial trouble and most hospitals are "bleeding red ink," 90% of the county's facilities need seismic retrofitting. According to Jim Lott of the Healthcare Association of Southern California, retrofitting costs for Los Angeles County's facilities will reach an estimated $8 billion. Statewide, McAnally reports that 75% of hospitals need retrofitting or rebuilding to comply with seismic standards by 2030 -- at a cost of $24 billion. Roger Richter of the California Healthcare Association is concerned that the burden of retrofitting costs will force the most financially troubled hospitals in underserved areas to close. Richter said, "What is unfortunate is that a lot of the older hospitals are the hospitals that serve rural areas and inner-cities areas, so, from a policy perspective, we have to be careful that we don't create access problems in trying to solve seismic safety issues." Although Gov. Gray Davis (D) recently signed legislation (SB 1801) that gives hospitals more time and flexibility to meet the requirements, industry officials are scrambling to devise a plan to cover construction costs. The industry is lobbying the Federal Emergency Management Agency for funds and is looking to the state for loan guarantees and grants. However, McAnally reports that "no solid form of funding has been identified" (McAnally, NPR "All Things Considered," 10/24). To listen to the report, go to http://search.npr.org/cf/cmn/cmnpd01fm.cfm?PrgDate=10 /24/2000&PrgID=2. Note: You must have RealPlayer G2 to listen to 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.