California’s hospitals are facing another challenge, including many in San Diego County. They are struggling to comply with SB 1953, a law passed in 1994 that requires all inpatient, acute-care hospital buildings to be retrofitted to ensure they can remain standing by 2008, or be rebuilt by 2030 to remain standing and operational. 

While SB 1953 is a laudable goal, never before has such an expensive unfunded mandate been imposed in California.

The $110 billion construction price tag (without financing) and the deadlines for compliance make this a largely unachievable goal for many California community hospitals. This could result in even more closures of hospitals that can’t afford to comply, or elimination of inpatient services. It’s a serious threat to patient care, and the opposite of what was originally intended — to preserve access to patient care.

The Hospital Building Safety Board voted in June to recommend that HAZARDS US (HAZUS) be adopted as a statewide seismic-safety assessment tool. According to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, over half of the 1,022 Structural Performance Category (SPC)-1 buildings in California could be reclassified SPC-2 under this new screening technology.

The Safety Board’s unanimous recommendations now go to OSHPD for review and approval, and then to the California Building Standards Commission for approval in September. If adopted, HAZUS would play a key role in helping hospitals comply with seismic compliance standards.

— STEVEN ESCOBOZA

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