2030 is deadline for new hospital
The state government has given hospitals throughout California until 2030 to upgrade their facilities or build new hospitals to meet earthquake safety standards, according to the CEO of the Catalina Island Medical Center.
On Tuesday night, Oct. 15, Council Member Ralph Morrow made the need for a new hospital public.
“It’s been long known that the hospital needs to be replaced,” said John Friel, head of the Medical Center.
The mandate to upgrade California hospitals came years ago from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.
According to the report, “California’s Seismic Safety Law,” about 40 percent of the state’s hospitals are at risk of collapse during a major earthquake.
According to Friel, the Planning and Development agency originally gave hospitals until 2013 to upgrade existing facilities or build new hospitals.
However, state officials apparently realized that wasn’t a realistic goal, so according to Friel the deadline has been extended to 2030.
That sounds like a long time from now, but in practical terms the deadline is moving quickly.
“It fact, it’s very close when you talk abut the life of a hospital replacement project,” Friel said.
Friel said it could take as long as 10 years to build a new hospital.
According to Friel, no decision has been made yet on whether to upgrade the existing hospital or build a new one. He said he expected a decision would be made within a year.
Friel said the hospital does not yet have a definite figure for the cost of building a new hospital.
“Hospitals in California cost about $1 million a bed,” Friel said.
On Oct. 15, Council Member Morrow put the potential cost of a new hospital at $10 to $15 million, a figure range that Friel described as accurate. However, there are other variables that could impact the cost, such as the unknown costs associated with “Obamacare.”
“So we have a lot of unknowns,” Friel said.
Hospital officials are also looking at what the demand for medical services will be.
The Medical Center hasn’t started raising funds yet, but has been looking at financing the project.
“Fortunately, the hospital is profitable,” Friel said.
Friel also pointed out that the sales tax collected on the Island is higher than on the mainland in order to support the Medical Center.
Medical Center officials are looking such potential income sources as debt financing (a mortgage), state and federal funding.
“We would expect the (Catalina Island Medical Center) Foundation will play a major role in raising funds,” Friel said.
Potential economic impact
On Oct. 15, Council Member Morrow said, “We’ve got to keep that hospital. “Without it, (there are) no cruise ships.”
However, the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau has not heard directly from cruise lines that they prefer destinations with hospitals.
“Many Islanders have the impression that having a hospital is a requirement of various cruise lines for a port to be considered a port of call,” said Wayne Griffin, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce. “Chamber representatives who regularly interact with cruise lines have not heard this directly from the lines.”
“We believe having a hospital does make a port more desirous to cruise lines because it offers them options,” Griffin said. “We are checking with our contacts to get further clarification.”