The destruction to Saint John’s Health Center caused by the 1994 Northridge Earthquake was devastating, forcing the closing of its facilities for nine months. A major step was taken to avoid such catastrophic damage again on Friday, November 10, with the installation of the last base isolator at the construction site of the Howard Keck Diagnostic and Treatment Center. Saint John’s has now become the only planned hospital on the Westside of Los Angeles to use this advanced form of seismic engineering.
The base isolation system acts much like giant shock absorbers for buildings, absorbing the energy of an earthquake and allowing the building to move (as opposed to sway) in all directions. Weighing in at 12 tons, the largest of its kind ever manufactured, this system is designed to keep patients and staff safe from harm and enable the Health Center to remain fully operational in the event of a seismic event equal to or greater than the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.
The blessing and installation of the last base isolator took place in The Healing Garden with hospital personnel, dignitaries, friends, trustees, neighbors and donors in attendance. Congressman Henry A. Waxman, who was instrumental in obtaining FEMA support for the construction of the replacement hospital, was the keynote speaker and was honored for his role in securing the $141 million FEMA grant. Waxman noted, “We’ve lived through the earthquake and know how important it is to have a stable building.” Lauding the fundraising efforts of the trustees that helped raise an additional $125 million, Waxman added, “FEMA was helpful, but it was the work of the Saint John’s family that brought this project to fruition. I celebrate all of you and the extraordinary future you are building for this hospital.” Sister Marie Madeleine presented Congressman Waxman with a gift in appreciation for all his work on behalf of the center.
Other speakers included Carl McKinzie, Chair, Saint John’s Board of Directors; Sister Marie Madeleine, Co-Chair, The Saint John’s Legacy Project; Sister Maureen Craig, Chaplain; Dr. Gil Kuhn, President, Medical Staff; Lou Lazatin, President and CEO, Saint John’s Health Center; and The Honorable Robert Holbrook, Mayor, City of Santa Monica, who said, “It took a little over a decade to reach this moment….This hospital is a blessing for the entire Westside community.”