CA Hospital Near Earthquake Epicenter Suffers Minimal Damage

Cheryl Clark, April 5, 2010

El Centro Regional Medical Center, a two-story, 165-bed hospital situated right along the fault line path that registered a 7.2 earthquake Sunday, did not sustain serious damage—though there were broken water lines in the older sections of the hospital. The lines were promptly repaired.

Following the earthquake, the facility, about 10 miles from the U.S./Mexico border, received about 25 patients in its emergency room, including one who was seriously injured when a road sign fell on him. He required transport to a tertiary facility outside the county.

Most of the other patients appeared to be suffering from anxiety or asthma, says Kathleen Pipkin, director of the hospital's public relations, marketing, and special projects.

But El Centro Regional's administrative office building next door, which houses accounting, administration, and education staff "didn't fare so well," Pipkin says. It was closed and awaits a structural engineer.

"There was buckling in the floor, and things that were bolted to the wall came off the wall, like bookshelves and cabinets," she says. "It felt like you were in a canoe on the water." In her own house, just down the street from the hospital, "everything that was glass except the windows broke."

Pipkin says the older part of the medical center was built in 1953 and has 40 beds, but the newer part of the hospital was built in 2003 to higher seismic standards.

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