“I continue to believe a $1 billion industry can come up with the costs needed to be safe and can find the funds to do whatever is needed to operate,’’ said Victoria Cobb, executive director of the Family Foundation, which for years lobbied for the changes.
The requirements are based on guidelines for health-care facilities from the Facility Guidelines Institute, a nonprofit group.
The rules specify size of exam rooms (minimum “clear floor area of 80 feet”), corridors that are at least five feet wide and ceiling heights of 7 feet 10 inches or more. The 46 pages of requirements include hands-free faucets on sinks, the types of airflow and temperature for certain rooms, and a phone available for patients.
In addition, the regulations require inspections, medical procedures and record-keeping; dictate that clinics enter into agreements with nearby hospitals; and mandate an infection-prevention plan.
Paulette McElwan, who runs a Planned Parenthood facility in Richmond, said thather clinic complied with the guidelines in 2009, although the rules were not mandated at the time. She estimates that half of the $4.6 million cost to move into its Richmond location, including buying the building, went toward the changes, including larger exam and procedure rooms and halls as well as new ventilation systems. Her facility is one of two in the state that needs little renovation, officials said.
Still, McElwan will spend about $100,000 to put a water cooler in the lobby, buy an EKG machine, move computer servers to a separate room, ensure that there are 10 inches between the faucet and the bottom of a sink, and install a duct system.
“It makes no difference if we have eight-foot halls,’’ McElwan said. “This is not for patient safety.’’