Pandemic revives calls to delay California hospital earthquake standards

The COVID-19 pandemic is renewing the call to relax the 2030 deadline for hospitals to comply with stricter earthquake-resistance standards in California, according to Bloomberg Law.

Since the stricter standards were signed into law, hospital executives have said that meeting the new seismic standards for 2030 would be expensive. For rural hospitals, which already operate on thin margins, meeting the requirements would require years of raising money and borrowing through the bond market.

Now lawmakers, the California Hospital Association and rural hospital executives are arguing that the standards should be delayed or relaxed amid the pandemic, which has drained hospitals of the capital needed to borrow money through the bond market.

At 51-bed Sonoma (Calif.) Valley Hospital, for example, raising enough money to meet stricter earthquake-proof building standards by 2030 was a struggle before the pandemic. With the pandemic draining $3 million from the hospital's revenue in a six-week period, finding the cash to bring the facility up to earthquake code now has become even more difficult, according to the report. 

"If the 2030 seismic requirements continue as they are today, as written, that will make our hospital close," Sonoma Valley Hospital CEO Kelly Mather told Bloomberg Law. 

The state legislature is considering a few measures to help address the issue of financing these upgrades, including a "trailer bill." Under the trailer bill, changes could be made to the signed law to either increase flexibility for the standards or extend the upgrade deadline.

"Legislation isn't carved in stone," California Assembly Health Committee Chairman Jim Wood told the publication. "I think there are times when we need to go back and revisit issues because of changes in circumstance."

Larger health systems, such as Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente and the University of California San Francisco Health, said that the pandemic won't affect their ability to meet the new earthquake standards. 

More articles on facilities management:
Shuttered 157-bed San Francisco hospital may reopen
Massachusetts plans to convert long-term care hospitals into COVID-19 facilities
The race to boost hospital bed capacity: Updates from 5 states



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