A Richmond city councillor wants to know why the city’s hospital isn’t up to seismic code, despite a decade-old warning that it’s at high-risk of earthquake damage.

The tower at Richmond Hospital has been around for nearly half a century, and separate studies from 2005 and 2011 found even a moderate quake could cause it serious problems.

The Vancouver Health Authority said seismic upgrades would cost at least $10 million – an expense Coun. Bill McNulty believes is well worth the money.

“It’s got to be a priority, and there needs to be a will to do something,” McNulty said. “We’re growing very fast and the facilities are not keeping up.”

The councillor believes the VHA has been ignoring the alarms raised in those studies, but spokeswoman Anna Marie D’Angelo insists that’s not the case.

D’Angelo also cautions a costly seismic upgrade would disrupt hospital operations, and that the aging tower might not even be worth preserving.

“It’s not meeting the present-day standards of patient care that we expect in facilities,” D’Angelo said.

Instead, the health authority would prefer to rebuild the tower completely – though it’s unclear how much that will cost, and when it will happen.

“The Richmond Tower is on our priority list, but these are very long projects, very expensive projects, and it takes a long time to actualize them,” D’Angelo said.

Computer modelling suggests a 7.3 magnitude quake in the heart of Vancouver could kill up to 10,000 people, injure as many as 128,000, and leave one in five buildings with extensive damage.

McNulty worries about what that kind of catastrophe would mean for Richmond if a major section of the city’s hospital can’t withstand the quake.

“If we ever have a disaster, it has got to survive,” he said.

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Scott Hurst