Southern California Hospitals Hold Up Well in Earthquake

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Hospitals in Southern California experienced only minor damages in yesterday's earthquake, although the quake underscores the looming deadline for hospitals to comply with state seismic safety rules, the Los Angeles Daily News reports (Abram, Los Angeles Daily News, 7/29).

At 11.42 a.m., the 5.4 magnitude earthquake hit, the strongest earthquake to hit an urban area in California in more than a decade. The epicenter was near Chino Hills (Rubin et al., Los Angeles Times, 7/30).

Jim Lott, executive vice president of the Hospital Association of Southern California, said that no facilities in the area reported any structural damage.

Michael Wilson, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, said that county hospitals experienced only minor damage from the quake and that repairs were quickly made (Los Angeles Daily News, 7/29).

The region's infrastructure did not experience serious damage or disruption, and only minor injuries were reported, including three incidents at an outpatient medical clinic in Brea (Los Angeles Times, 7/30).

Seismic Safety Rules

Under a law that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signed last year, hospitals that can demonstrate financial constraints will have until 2020 to retrofit buildings or construct new facilities.

The state's original deadline for hospitals to meet seismic safety standards was 2008, but the law was later extended to 2013 for all but 10 hospitals. The new law pushes that deadline back still further for some facilities.

The Schwarzenegger administration also has approved a new method for determining the seismic risk of hospitals. The method will use software developed by federal officials to measure the safety of hospital facilities using several factors, including soil composition and buildings' distance from fault lines.

If facilities are not considered high-risk after the new assessment, they will not have to be rebuilt or retrofitted until 2030 (California Healthline, 12/11/07).

Lott said that about one-third of hospitals have completed seismic retrofits or currently are working on the retrofits and another third have planned the retrofits.

"Another third of them are having extreme problems because it's expensive," Lott said (Los Angeles Daily News, 7/29).


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