Tag Archives: earthquakes

Are California hospitals ready for the Big One?

For three out of four of them, the answer is “no.”

Seventy-five percent of California hospitals — 335 in all — have at least one building in danger of collapse in a major quake.  You can find if your local hospital is on the list at:


Twelve years after Northridge, 17 years after Loma Prieta, and a full 34 years after more than 50 people were killed in the collapse of buildings at Olive View Hospital in Sylmar and the VA Hospital in San Fernando as a result of the San Fernando earthquake, and California is about as prepared for the Big One as New Orleans was for Hurricane Katrina.

So why isn’t seismic retrofitting of hospitals included in the $38 billion in infrastructure bond measures proposed for the November ballot?  And why does the California Hospital Association want to eliminate the 2008 deadline for making “collapse hazard” hospital buildings safe?

The infrastructure bond package on the November ballot will include money for roads, schools, and, in the wake of Katrina, levees.  Yet while every Californian knows what the number one threat is to our public safety (and it ain’t terrorism), the amount set aside to prepare our frontline emergency facilities for a major earthquake is zero dollars and zero cents.

The issue is too basic even to qualify for meaningful political debate.  It’s a simple question of cause and effect: if we don’t prepare for the disaster we all know is coming, we’ll be unprepared when it happens.  Yet still, the short-term financial interests of the hospital industry somehow continue to prevail over the governor and the legislature.

It’s like watching the dysfunctional political process that ushered in the failed Katrina response unfold all over again.