Seismic safety bonds critical to Marin County’s disaster preparedness
What is the value of having a high quality, independent community hospital in Marin—and what would the future be like without one? What if there were no trauma center, birthing center, comprehensive cardiovascular or cancer program in the county?
Those are questions that will become increasingly important as Marin General Hospital—the only hospital between San Francisco and Santa Rosa that offers all these services—gears up to raise money to build a new wing that complies with State-mandated seismic safety requirements. A majority of that money must come from general obligation bonds which would have to be approved by a two—thirds majority of local voters.
“No one should have to drive across the bridge to get the care they need,”said Lee Domanico, Chief Executive Officer of Marin Healthcare District. “But without voter approval for those bonds, Marin General Hospital won’t be able to comply with the new safety standards, and thus will not be permitted to continue to provide vital services residents depend upon.”
The earthquake risks are not idle speculation, either. The U.S. Geographic Survey (USGS) study completed in 2008 forecast a 70% probability of having one or more magnitude 6.7+ earthquakes in the nine-county Bay Area in the next 30 years. And it points out that quakes of that size can be deadly—as shown by the 1989 magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta and the 1994 magnitude 6.7 Northridge earthquakes.”
As the June, 2011 Marin Grand Jury Disaster Preparedness Report concluded about Marin’s ability to withstand an earthquake:
“Highways and roads may be impassable due to landslides, downed overpasses, and gridlock. Basic utility services could be out for several days. Hospitals and health care facilities may be damaged and become inaccessible. In short, emergency services and first responders may not be immediately available in the event of a disaster.”
A full service hospital close to home—one built to withstand a major quake—will be absolutely vital if such a quake hits.
The USGS survey estimates that the highest probability for a Northern California quake is along the Rodgers Creek/Hayward Fault, the one closest and most likely to affect Marin General Hospital. All this underscores the critical need to prepare now for the powerful quakes the report calls “inevitable in California’s future,” according to Domanico, “the vote for or against seismic safety bonds amounts to a vote on the hospital’s future viability.”
“We Californians have lived with the threat of earthquakes for so long we’ve become blase about the possibility,” said Domanico. “But we can’t afford to discount this risk. If a major quake occurs before we’re ready, the hospital could be so damaged it would be unable to respond to the needs of local residents, putting their very lives at risk. Marin needs a hospital that is still standing when that big one hits.”
That’s why the District will seek voter approval of a general obligation bond measure that will help finance construction of a new, earthquake-safe hospital building. State law requires completion of the project by 2020.
The proposed project would include a five-story, 300,000-square-foot hospital replacement building. Most importantly, it would be built to the latest safety standards, able to withstand a major quake.
“We have no time to lose,” Domanico said. “Marin General Hospital has been central to the health and welfare of county residents for the past 50 years. We hope the community agrees we need to make sure it can continue to serve our community for the next 50.”
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