Some Hospitals Win Reprieve on Deadlines for New Construction
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has approved legislation to extend a state law requiring most California hospitals to be able to withstand an earthquake by 2013, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The California Nurses Association and some lawmakers oppose the delays, arguing that the changes will put the lives of hospital personnel and patients at risk.
Under the law, hospitals that can demonstrate financial constraints will have until 2020 to retrofit buildings or construct new facilities. Many of the hospitals expected to qualify for the extension treat large and underserved urban populations, according to the Times.
Kim Belshé, secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency, said, "A seismically safe building is no good to anyone if the doors close due to a hospital's financial inability to replace or retrofit that building."
The state's original deadline for hospitals to meet seismic safety standards was 2008, but the law was later extended to 2013 for all but 10 hospitals.
However, a RAND study released this year by the California HealthCare Foundation estimated that about half of hospital facilities found to be at high risk of major damage in an earthquake would not meet the 2013 deadline.
Many facilities have put off costly construction because they also face a 2030 deadline to completely reconstruct them, according to the Times.
The Schwarzenegger administration also has approved a new method for determining the seismic risk of hospitals (Rau, Los Angeles Times, 12/11).
The new method will use software developed by federal officials to measure the safety of hospital facilities using several factors, including soil composition and buildings' distance from fault lines (California Healthline, 11/15).
If facilities are not considered high-risk after the new assessment, they will not have to be rebuilt or retrofitted until 2030 (Los Angeles Times, 12/11).
CHCF publishes California Healthline.
Hospitals that are not able to meet the 2013 deadline are not receiving any "public money for retrofitting," but "public money will be required" given the high cost estimates of construction, Thomas Elias, a syndicated columnist, writes in a Long Beach Press-Telegram opinion piece. It "is high time the state's leaders recognized their most urgent construction problem and did something about it -- even if that means diverting some of the money from last year's bonds away from the purposes stated on the ballot," according to Elias (Elias, Long Beach Press-Telegram, 12/5).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.