Seismic safety law could add stress to state hospitals


California hospitals are working to modernize their buildings before the “Big One” strikes, an effort that will cost tens of billions of dollars and could compromise access to health care, according to a recently released study.

The state’s 418 hospitals also have a state deadline. They are racing to meet seismic safety standards set by a California law inspired by the deadly Northridge earthquake in 1994, which damaged 11 hospitals and forced the evacuation of eight.

By 2020, hospitals must reduce the risk of collapse. By 2030, they must be able to continue to function after a major earthquake.

It could cost hospitals between $ 34 billion and $ 143 billion, according to a new report from Rand Corp.

The report, funded by the California Hospital Association, looked at whether hospitals in the state will be able to comply with the law, especially by the 2030 deadline.

About a third of the state’s hospitals are in financial difficulty, and that number could rise to more than 50% as hospitals seek seismic compliance, the study found.

Public district hospitals, hospitals that serve large numbers of Medi-Cal patients, rural hospitals and private hospitals are particularly vulnerable.

“The trend of greater reliance on outpatient services and facilities, combined with the implications of upgrading or replacing existing buildings, could result in a net reduction in hospital capacity in California by 2030,” he said. concluded the study.

The report questioned whether the state could help hospitals meet safety standards without putting health care providers at risk of financial distress. This could mean providing “government grants to share compliance costs or reduce funding costs, provide additional flexibility in timing compliance deadlines, rethink what it means for hospitals to stay operational after the event, and streamline administrative processes associated with seismic compliance projects. “

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