Calif. hospitals slow to prep for quakes

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

California Watch health reporter Christina Jewett has found that despite an earthquake readiness push that’s a decade and a half old, few at-risk California hospitals have even had their potential collapse risk calculated, and even fewer have done anything about it.

quake

Photo by martinluff via Flickr

It seems to come down to the inherent difficult in enforcing regulations like these. A strict interpretation would call for the wholesale closure of noncompliant hospitals, a move that would create a public health issue every bit as severe as the one it’s trying to solve.

In the mean time, smaller quakes cracked floors and walls in at least one at-risk hospital in 2008, and some of the hospitals with the highest assessed risk are taking slow, expensive steps toward correcting it. The deadlines have already been extended repeatedly, though Gov. Schwarzenegger appears to be taking a hard line stand on pushing them back any farther. Hospitals now have until 2013 or 2015 to comply, depending. Hospitals that can prove financial hardship (regardless of assessed risk) have until 2020.

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