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Damaged Public Health Center to Relocate in April


The San Fernando Valley's largest public health center, housed in 13 trailers since the Northridge quake, will relocate in spring to a nearby office building while the county rebuilds the quake-damaged facility.

The decision Tuesday by Los Angeles County supervisors to rent an office building one mile south of the quake-damaged health center will improve conditions for patients, many of whom have been forced to seek medical care elsewhere or wait outdoors in the parking lot to be seen at the makeshift clinic.

But the reprieve will not come until April because the three-story office building that the county plans to lease at 6931 Van Nuys Blvd. has to be remodeled, officials said.

"Everyone is really looking forward to it," said Ernest Espinoza, the center's associate administrator. "The trailers are better than the tents we first had after the quake, but it's still cramped here."

The trailers, situated in the parking lot of the health center in the 7500 block of Van Nuys Boulevard, provide only about a quarter of the amount of space the center occupied before the Jan. 17 earthquake. About six weeks after the quake, the five-story, 34-year-old building was condemned when inspectors found previously undetected cracks in support beams on the top floor.

About 4,300 patients per month now visit the temporary health center for free or low-cost medical services, down more than 40% from normal, Espinoza said.

"(It is) imperative that the full scope of medical services be restored at an interim facility as soon as possible," said Supervisor Ed Edelman, who represents the area and introduced the motion in favor of the lease.

Under the terms of the proposed lease, the county will pay about $36,000 a month, including utilities and maintenance, to rent the office building from owner Joshua Michaely for a maximum of five years.

Meanwhile, the county will raze and rebuild the original health center.

The lease and the cost of rebuilding will be entirely funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Governor's Office of Emergency Services and insurance benefits from the old building, said Claus Marx, a county spokesman.

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