Ramsey County exploring leasing part of Bethesda Hospital | KSTP.com

Ramsey County exploring leasing part of Bethesda Hospital

Ben Henry
Updated: October 06, 2020 12:19 PM
Created: October 06, 2020 11:57 AM

Ramsey County could take over part of Bethesda Hospital to address its growing homelessness issue.

During the county board meeting Tuesday, the announcement was made that the county has an opportunity to lease part of the hospital.

Bethesda Hospital is currently being used as a COVID-only hospital but Fairview Health announced Monday it expects a $250 million loss for 2020, resulting in major cuts — including 900 jobs and facilities, like Bethesda, closing.

With losses of $163M in 6 months, Fairview to eliminate 900 jobs, make hospital changes

According to Ramsey County Manager Ryan O’Connor, discussion of this acquisition started in mid-September. But, because of the sensitive nature of Fairview Health’s announcement, they had to wait to share details with the board and public.

As early as its next meeting next Tuesday, the board could vote to approve a lease that would last as long as April 2022 and cost as much as $3 million. Final details will be worked out this week with board members and county leaders.

The county is currently helping about 280 people with housing every night — mostly within hotels. There are still as many as 300 people who sleep outside every night in Ramsey County. This move would add about 100 more beds.

While most of the homeless population is in St. Paul, Commissioner Trista MatasCastillo said there are more and more people having to sleep outside in the surrounding suburbs.

“We have had staff looking for potential sites to expand and they have looked all over far and wide across the county,” MatasCastillo said.

“Many [of those sites] required significant investment to bring them up to standards that we could house people there,” she added. “People often say, ‘well, we have all these vacant buildings,’ but those vacant buildings don’t have showers, they don’t have bathrooms, they don’t have kitchens and eating facilities.”

An advantage that Bethesda Hospital offers is a ‘turn-key’ facility that could make an impact as early as Dec. 1 (a date that was suggested as the start of the lease). Commissioners also talked about how the space would offer opportunities for people to connect with community resources, create jobs and possibly allow for medical care if it becomes a more permanent move.

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