Kaiser Agrees to Rebuild Quake-Damaged Hospital

Kaiser Permanente has agreed in principle to rebuild its quake-damaged Panorama City hospital rather than abandon the site, according to sources familiar with its plans.

Representatives from Kaiser and federal and state agencies are set to negotiate the details of the deal over the next several weeks. While Kaiser, the nation's largest health maintenance organization, has yet to sign a final agreement, a spokeswoman said the company is "very optimistic" about the prospect.

The decision to rebuild the 325-bed facility marks a reversal from Kaiser's position earlier this year. At that time, it raised the possibility of closing the hospital and spending the $68 million in federal quake repair funds intended for Panorama City at other facilities.

Company officials said pooling the money with $160 million in grants offered to Kaiser for quake damage at two other Los Angeles area sites would allow more flexibility in planning repairs. But Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Mission Hills) feared it would mean a shutdown of the Panorama City hospital.

Berman drafted a plan to block Kaiser from spending the money anywhere except Panorama City, and attached it to a federal spending bill. It was passed by the House of Representatives, leaving Kaiser with few options.

Kaiser officials met with Berman in his district office in August and expressed their willingness to keep the hospital open, a Berman spokesman said.

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