By WADE DANIELS Staff Reporter At a time when virtually all hospitals nationwide are dramatically reducing their bed counts and shifting to outpatient care, the combined number of licensed beds at San Fernando Valley’s 15 largest hospitals actually rose slightly over the past year. This year’s list shows the hospitals have 4,961 beds, 45 more than a year ago. But that will likely change dramatically in the years ahead as hospitals are reconstructed to comply with tougher new state seismic safety standards, and simultaneously downsized to adapt to outpatient care. A state law passed in 1994, Senate Bill 1953, requires California hospitals to submit by June 30, 2000 a report on how they plan to retrofit or reconstruct. By 2008, the facilities that are deemed major hazards must be brought up to current building standards, while some will have until 2030. “We are at the early stages of researching and figuring out how this will affect us,” said Jo Lynn De la Torre, spokeswoman for the 225-bed Simi Valley Hospital, owned by Adventist Health. The hospital, No. 14 among the Valley’s largest hospitals, has a total of seven buildings. Two of them need seismic upgrade work. However, as with many other Valley hospitals, it is unclear how much upgrading the Simi Valley buildings would cost. Hospital officials have not yet decided whether the buildings will be retrofitted, torn down and rebuilt, abandoned or converted to outpatient facilities. “There are lots and lots of possibilities as to what will happen,” De la Torre said. Like Simi Valley Hospital, most other local hospitals are evaluating the extent of work their inpatient buildings will need, and how much it will cost to bring them into compliance with earthquake protection safety standards. “This whole process will cause some big problems and big decisions for hospitals,” said Jim Lott, senior vice president of the Healthcare Association of Southern California’s public policy/advocacy department. Lott estimates that the number of licensed hospital beds in Los Angeles County will drop about 26 percent by the time the smoke clears. That’s because many hospitals will simply abandon buildings that are too costly to repair or replace. De la Torre said Adventist Health is eligible to receive help paying for building repairs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Many other hospitals, however, still don’t know where funding for the work will come from, Lott said. “A lot of hospitals are making plans for what they need to do, but many are scratching their heads about how they will pay for it,” Lott said. “This could be especially tough for freestanding hospitals.” As for this week’s list, Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank remains the Valley’s largest hospital, with 455 licensed beds, unchanged from a year ago. Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, one of three California health care facilities owned by Seattle-based Providence Health Systems, is expected to maintain its number of beds after the seismic work is completed, said Michelle Meier, a spokeswoman for the hospital. “We will retrofit, and the hospital will be essentially the same size when it’s done,” Meier said. The increase in total beds among the largest 15 hospitals over the past year can be traced to two hospitals Northridge Hospital Medical Center, which added 36 beds, and Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center, which added 31. Officials at the Glendale hospital’s parent company, Unihealth, did not return calls seeking comment. However, Wendell Mobley, spokesman for the Northridge hospital, said, “The number of licensed beds can fluctuate according to need for specific uses. I suspect that a need arose and we licensed some more beds.” Lance Ignon, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara-based Tenet Healthcare Corp., concurred that hospitals routinely add or subtract a relatively small number of beds to accommodate room reconfigurations or changes in demand. Tenet owns Encino Tarzana Regional Medical Center, No. 4 on this year’s list, in addition to 42 other hospitals throughout California. It intends to pay for retrofitting those structures with money from its own coffers, said Bill Loorz, the company’s vice president of construction and design. Encino Tarzana Regional Medical Center will be among the first of Tenet’s hospitals to be brought up to code, he said. “The seismic action there (in Tarzana) is hot,” Loorz said, explaining why Tenet’s Valley property is a priority. The company has not yet decided whether its Valley hospital will be retrofitted or completely rebuilt, Loorz said.