Hospitals caught in retrofit crunch*

In his 2004 book A Dangerous Place, the late author Marc Reisner describes a
nightmare scenario: a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hits the Hayward fault,
destroying many of the Bay Area’s hospitals and leaving thousands of injured people with no place to go.

This was exactly what the Legislature was trying to avoid when it passed SB
1953 in 1994. Passed a few months after the Northridge earthquake, the bill
set two deadlines 2008 and 2030 for California hospitals to meet certain
earthquake safety standards.

More than a decade later, hospitals say they are facing an unfunded mandate
of up to $41 billion. But when the governor offered up his 10 year, $68
billion infrastructure bond proposal earlier this month, it did not include
any money for retrofitting hospitals. Hospital officials are wondering
why–and also seeking a change in the retrofit mandate.

The are several issues involved, said Department of Finance spokesman H.D.
Palmer. For one thing, the governor’s office is still waiting for an
assessment from the state Health and Human Services Agency on the need and
likely cost of retrofitting the state’s hospitals. But there is also the
fact that the majority of these hospitals are privately owned.

“You get into the question of whether public bond dollars should go to the
retrofitting of privately-owned facilities, and then balancing that against
public needs,”

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