|A new shear wall is under construction at Northridge Hospital Medical Center to help meet seismic safety requirements. |
Nearly 90 percent of acute care hospital buildings in California meet the state’s Hospital Seismic Safety Law, which requires that by 2020 all health care facilities must withstand risk of collapse after a strong earthquake.
The remaining 10 percent are on a path to comply by 2020, says Robert P. David, director, California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD). OSHPD enforces and monitors the construction and renovation of hospitals so that they meet the safety law’s requirements.
While hospitals that fail to meet the seismic safety requirement after 2020 will face losing their licenses, David is optimistic that won’t happen.
“There are a few remaining hospitals in the Los Angeles area and the San Francisco Bay area that still have work to be done, but they have submitted plans to us to get the work completed,” David says.
Hospitals must meet a more stringent requirement by 2030 in which all acute care hospitals must be deemed safe and reasonably capable of providing services to the public following an earthquake, say OSHPD officials.
Though he did not know the specific amount, David says the state’s hospitals have spent “many billions of dollars” to achieve compliance.
Hospitals with buildings that have significant structural deficiencies or a probability of collapse during an earthquake greater than the threshold set by OSHPD are required to remove those buildings from service by 2020 or be retrofitted, according to OSHPD.
Owners and designers can choose to fix only certain deficiencies present in the building that decrease the probability of collapse to a value that is considered acceptable for life safety, OSHPD states.
In such cases, the building may suffer significant damage during an earthquake without collapse or loss of life. Such buildings may not be repairable after an earthquake and are mandated by the state of California to be removed from providing general acute care services by 2030.
The Alfred E. Alquist Hospital Seismic Act of 1973, which impacts all of California’s hospitals, regardless of their proximity to fault lines, was toughened in 1994 following the Northridge earthquake near Los Angeles.
More than 10 hospitals were damaged severely or rendered unusable after the quake.