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As new report highlights high cost of retrofitting hospitals in CA, we discuss the value of the seismic standards

View of the Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California, 04 January 2008.
View of the Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California, 04 January 2008.

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After damage to 11 hospitals during the 1994 Northridge quake, California legislators passed SB 1953, which required hospital buildings to meet new safety standards.

According to the current deadlines, by 2020 hospitals must minimize the risk of collapse and by 2030 they should be able to maintain operations after a big earthquake.

A new report from the RAND Corporation is now estimating that this will cost California hospitals between $34 billion and $143 billion, questioning whether the standards can be met without significant financial burdens on hospitals. The report also recommends some alternatives to the current legislation. We discuss the projected financial estimates and how they might be negotiated with the need to provide care to people injured as a result of the ‘big one.’

We reached out to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. They did not get back to us in time for this interview.


Benjamin Lee Preston, director of the community health and environmental policy program and senior policy researcher at RAND Corporation, where he was the lead on the report “Updating the Costs of Compliance for California's Hospital Seismic Safety Standards”

Carmela Coyle, president and CEO of the California Hospital Association

Lucy Jones, seismologist and founder and chief scientist at the Lucy Jones Center for Science & Society, a natural disaster risk reduction research organization; she is a research associate at Caltech and author of the book, “The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do About Them" (Doubleday, 2018)