Last week, this message highlighted that hospitals and their staff would be available to all who might need them while the rest of us took a break for the long holiday weekend. And, of course, that’s exactly what happened when two major earthquakes struck the town of Ridgecrest in the span of just two days.
Despite a 6.4 earthquake on July 4 followed by a 7.1 magnitude quake July 5, Ridgecrest Regional Hospital remains open and operational, and its patients are well and safe. Thankfully, this most unexpected disaster did not wreak the kind of havoc it might have. Ridgecrest’s disaster response was top notch, its buildings were safe, and its staff prepared.
Ensuring patients are properly cared for after an earthquake has been the focus of a bill CHA is sponsoring this legislative session — Senate Bill 758, authored by Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge). Our goals are two-fold: to reinforce hospitals’ commitment to safety for their staff and patients during an earthquake, and to preserve critical access to care following an earthquake.
It is vital in this state of tenuous fault lines that we develop public policy that prioritizes Californians’ safety and well-being. While we had planned to secure that policy this year, we realize it is better to continue our work on SB 758 with legislators into next year. We’ve asked for more time to build a deeper understanding of what’s at stake, which will help to set a course that works for as many hospitals, communities, and patients as possible.
Since the Northridge Earthquake in 1994, hospitals have invested billions to ensure their buildings will stand strong if an earthquake strikes. Now it’s time to make sure future requirements focus on caring for people afterward in new and modern ways. Rather than spend upwards of $100 billion to make sure all hospital buildings remain operational in the event of an earthquake, which the law requires by 2030, we must reinforce to lawmakers that patients might be better served in any number of other ways — like by receiving care through mobile units or other technological advances.
With a more nimble approach to planning for post-disaster care, we can contain costs now, which goes to the broader discussion of health care affordability.
We’re pleased this complex issue is getting the time and attention it deserves. It’s an important process, and well worth our effort as stewards of sound policy, safeguarding our communities.