$840M bond measure to retrofit hospital

October 20, 2008 4:36:18 PM PDT
Santa Clara County voters on Nov. 4 will decide whether to authorize the issuance of general obligation bonds to upgrade the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and make it seismically sound.

In Measure A, the county proposes issuing bonds totaling $840 million to retrofit the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and fund medical facilities in downtown San Jose that would replace the closed San Jose Medical Center, according to the county registrar of voters.

A seismic upgrade of the medical center is mandatory under state law.

"This issue is, fortunately, simple and straightforward," said Kim Roberts, chief executive officer of the Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital System.

"Valley Medical Center is the largest health provider in Santa Clara County -- in the past four years, one out of every four county residents has been cared for by us," Roberts said.

If the bond does not pass, half of the 574 beds at the center will disappear, and the trauma and burn centers will most likely be shut down because there will not be sufficient staffing or space to continue the services, Roberts said.

A state law adopted after the 1994 Northridge earthquake caused the temporary closure of several hospitals mandates that hospitals comply with seismic safety requirements by 2013, according to the county registrar's office.

The bonds would pay for the retrofit project and no further funding would be required, Roberts said.

"The medical center won't be asking for more money two years down the road," she added. "This is all we need."

In order to meet the timeline, the hospital has already begun outlining the construction, and has almost completed the plans that must be approved by the state.

"We are under budget and ahead of schedule, which is rare for a project this size," Roberts said. "Architectural plans will be given to the state for approval later this year so that the construction will be finished by 2013."

Measure A also requires the creation of a citizens' oversight committee to review annual reports on the collection and expenditure of funds. It also prohibits the county from using bond money for administrators' salaries.

In an election year with a struggling economy, some people tend to vote against measures that cost money, but Roberts urged voters to educate themselves about Measure A and consider the value of the proposition.

"Economic downturns are short term, but trauma care and health care are for a lifetime," Roberts said.

Two-thirds approval is required to pass the measure. No arguments against the measure have been submitted.


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