Staff Reporter

UCLA isn't the only teaching hospital in town getting a facelift. From L.A. County-USC Medical Center to Cedars-Sinai, public and private facilities throughout the region are spending millions on major expansions and retrofitting projects.

They include everything from new labs to bigger patient rooms. Some of the projects were required under changes in state law, while others are being done as a reaction to industry-wide changes in the ways health care is delivered.

Once the planned renovations are complete, L.A. County teaching hospitals will have two new trauma centers, several additional satellite medical centers, a new MRI facility, and an expanded cancer center. And for all that, there will be fewer beds, thanks to faster recovery times and a managed care system that demands more outpatient treatment.

"The driving force in all of this, which is not just going on in Los Angeles but California, is seismic retrofitting laws," said Jim Lott, executive director of the Healthcare Association of Southern California. "Most hospitals are in the process of development because 95 percent failed seismic requirements."

Lott said most hospitals have taken the mandate to retrofit as an opportunity to restructure facilities and make them more efficient.

One of the biggest planned renovations will take place at County-USC Medical Center, a seismically unsafe building that will ultimately be demolished after a replacement is built in Boyle Heights. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors has approved $657 million for the project, which will include 600 beds to replace the current 946-bed facility built in 1932.

Further progress on the hospital, though, has been stalled as county supervisors negotiate with state legislators over the size of a proposed satellite campus in Baldwin Park. The county proposed a 60-bed facility, while state legislators have asked for 125 beds. The two sides must reach an agreement for the hospital to receive state funding.

"(Any agreement is) a while off," said Dan Savage, chief of staff for Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, in whose district the hospital falls.

Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, led the push by the state for a 750-bed hospital to replace County-USC. But the price tag estimated between $818 million and $1 billion was considered too high by county supervisors.

The result has been a long period of wrangling between county and state officials. The state has agreed to allow a 600-bed County-USC facility, but only if the satellite hospital is built.


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