UCI Hospital to be Torn Down, Rebuilt as Seismically Safe
The University of California Board of Regents tomorrow is expected to approve a $235 million grant that would enable the University of California-Irvine Medical Center's main hospital to be demolished and reconstructed by 2008, the Orange County Register reports. Experts say the 38-year-old facility must be rebuilt because it is "too old" for effective retrofitting without "major service interruptions." The reconstruction is important because UCI Medical Center -- the county's only Level One trauma center -- would likely take "the lion's share of the injured" following a major earthquake, with "thousands" of local residents expected to "flood" the hospital within 24 hours after a 6.0 or higher earthquake. Hospital and state reports call the facility's current bracing system "inadequate," and say that the building "stands a good chance of crumbling during a major tremor." The $17 million needed to tear down the old hospital would not be covered by the board grant, and some private and federal funding will be sought, UCI Medical Center Director Dr. Ralph Cygan said. He added, "It sends a powerful message to our community that the office of the president (of the UC Regents) feels the medical center was well worth investment. We're a long way toward having what we need to build the finest hospital here in Orange County." Following an earthquake in Northridge, a 1994 law passed requiring all acute-care hospitals in California to "assess their seismic safety and make repairs by 2008." All non-complying institutions will be required to close or convert to non-acute care facilities. Kurt Schaefer, deputy director for the facilities division of the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, explained, "Northridge revealed that hospitals built before 1970 don't perform very well in earthquakes." Three years ago, the University of California began to examine its teaching hospitals across the state to ascertain whether they could withstand an earthquake, and determined that each facility required work to meet the standards (Saar/Fisher, Orange County Register, 11/14).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.