CALIFORNIA – This shocker is actually good news for many California hospitals and health systems. It now looks as if about 600 hospital buildings will not necessarily have to be rebuilt or retrofitted by a deadline of 2013 in order to meet California’s strict rules for seismic safety. In recent weeks the California Building Standards Commission voted to disregard the results of an earthquake readiness tool used in the 1990s. That test determined that 1,123 hospital buildings – all of which were built before 1973 – throughout the state were at risk of collapsing during a major earthquake. The commission has decided to re-test such buildings using a risk-assessment tool developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) called HAZUS. Prior to the commission’s vote, health providers had until 2013 to make structural changes to make sure their buildings could remain standing after a major quake. Hospital executives and other industry experts warned that making such repairs could, in some instances, be so costly that many hospitals would have to close. Even with the most recent vote, however, the strictest of all seismic safety requirements remains in effect. That mandate states that all acute care hospitals must be constructed in such a way as to remain operational – not just standing – following a major quake.
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