March 28 (UPI) -- When the Northridge Earthquake struck in 1994, it damaged 11 hospitals and forced eight to evacuate. This led to California to adopt the SB1953, which is designed to protect the state's hospitals against future earthquakes.
To that end, it will cost between $34 billion and $143 billion for the state's hospitals to reach its 2030 state seismic safety standards, according to a new report published by the RAND Corporation.
The hospitals are responsible for the total cost of the upgrades, which puts a strain on an industry already strapped for cash, the researchers say. About 34 percent of all California hospitals are already suffering some financial burden. But that number could easily push up to 50 percent, as hospitals attempt to meet the 2030 standards.
Most of the upgrades will focus on improving independent private hospitals, public healthcare district hospitals and hospitals that serve rural areas and hospitals with a high number of Medicaid patients.
"There is little question that it is in the public interest to have seismically resilient hospitals," Benjamin Preston, director of RAND's Community Health and Environmental Policy Program, said in a press release. "But given that hospitals most at risk of collapse will be upgraded by 2020, there is an opportunity for analysis and discussion for how to most effectively and efficiently enhance resilience in health service delivery in the future."
The California Hospital Association funded the report, which outlines the financial consequences of failing to meet the 2030 deadline. The paper suggests alternatives to existing policies that may help hospitals balance the public need for more earthquake-durable healthcare facilities with the cost of meeting the 2030 standards.
For the report, the researchers used previous RAND data to analyze the cost of upgrading California's 418 general acute-care hospitals. Officials at those facilities could improve existing conditions or build new hospitals altogether, they say.
"While acute-care hospitals still play a critical role, more and more individuals rely on outpatient services to support health needs. It is important that capital investments in health facilities are aligned with current models for health care delivery," Preston said.