Hospital’s opening put off -- again

Share via
Times Staff Writer

The long-delayed opening of Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, planned for May 4, has been postponed again in the aftermath of a March 26 water leak caused by the faulty installation of a commercial coffee maker.

Flooding on several floors and the subsequent repairs and cleanup have forced the hospital to push back a required inspection by the state Department of Public Health scheduled for Thursday, said David Feinberg, chief executive of the UCLA Hospital System.

“We are working with UCLA to reschedule,” said Suanne Buggy, a spokeswoman for the public health agency in Sacramento.


The setback, one of a succession of woes for the 520-bed hospital, occurs at a time when the renowned institution already faces an embarrassing controversy. This week UCLA was forced to acknowledge that an employee improperly looked at the confidential medical records of dozens of UCLA patients, including Farrah Fawcett and California first lady Maria Shriver.

The new facility, designed by I.M. Pei and his son, C.C. “Didi” Pei, was originally set to open in late 2004 to replace the campus’ half-century-old medical center, which was damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. But cost overruns and construction delays conspired to dash expectations for an on-time launch.

The construction budget ballooned to about $829 million from an initial estimate of $598 million in 1998. Including thousands of high-tech devices, the total cost has reached $1 billion, officials said.

UCLA officials blamed the many delays and requests for more funds on the rising costs of steel, drywall and other materials, as well as design changes to accommodate medical advances.

For months, doctors, nurses and other employees have been gearing up for the May 4 relocation. The postponement throws a kink into the complicated preparations and training required to ensure that hundreds of patients can be safely moved and that all necessary equipment will be in place. UCLA has contracted with Health Care Relocations, a company based in Canada, for the $1-million move.

Officials said it was too soon to say when the move would occur, especially since no date has been set for the required inspection by public health officials. Feinberg said the move could be postponed until mid- to late June.


Roxanne Moster, a UCLA spokeswoman, said costs related to the leak would probably be covered by insurance companies for the coffee-maker vendor.