Proposition to spur hospital construction in California

Approximately $750 million in bonds will help fund hospital construction in California, thanks to a proposition voters approved Nov. 2.

Fifty-eight percent of California voters approved Proposition 61, which authorizes the state to issue tax-exempt bonds to build and expand children’s hospitals and to purchase medical equipment.

Eight private and five public hospitals will share the proceeds, with the private hospitals receiving about $74 million each and the five University of California-affiliated children’s hospitals sharing $150 million.

In most cases, the hospitals are likely to put the bond money into their capital improvement budgets, which will help fund renovation or expansion projects that have been put on hold. At hospitals like Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, the bonds will help pay for earthquake retrofitting medical buildings. The hospital plans to replace its current building on Vermont Avenue in Hollywood because it does not meet earthquake safety guidelines. The project, which is state-mandated, will cost at least $300 million, according to hospital officials.

Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach, Calif., has had plans to upgrade its 372-bed neonatal care, pediatric intensive care and general pediatric units, but has not had the funding. With help from the bonds, the hospital plans to start construction. It will also build bigger patient rooms, a family area for parents to rest and sleep and an area where they can work on their computers.

Similar projects are in the works at other hospitals across Southern California. At the University of California San Diego Medical Center, officials hope to increase the number of surgical suites and construct a new convalescent center for children. Loma Linda University Medical Center plans to expand the number of patient beds in its children’s hospital. At Children’s Hospital of Orange County, a $249 million expansion project that includes a new parking deck and an outpatient clinic expansion is in the works.

In Northern California, hospitals are also likely to use the money to help make hospitals earthquake safe. At Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland, the bonds will help fund a 170-bed hospital building to meet earthquake resistance standards.

The California Health Facilities Financing Authority will be in charge of developing an application process for awarding the grants. The grant amount will be based on how much the grant will improve child health care, the importance of the services that will be created and the demonstration by the hospital that the project is feasible and needed. Projects must be completed within a certain period of time, which will be determined by the authority.