Monday, November 22, 1999

Bethesda Oak closing saddens many readers

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Be careful when you open your voice mail. Bethesda babies — as well as their parents and nurses — may be putting up a fuss over the announced closing of the hospital on Oak Street.

        “Closing Bethesda is a crime. My four children and I were born there. I feel a certain emptiness knowing a place filled with so much life and light will soon go dark.” — Dawn Stevens, Mount Airy.

        “Five months ago, I delivered my second baby at Bethesda. I had the most wonderful experience there. My heart aches knowing, if I have a third child, I won't be going back.” — Elissa Andrews, Cold Spring.

        “As a nurse in Bethesda's maternity ward, I know that closing this hospital feels like a death in the family, for the staff and the neighborhood women we care for.” — Jane “Please don't use my last name,” Walnut Hills.

        These readers responded to my Friday column about Bethesda Oak going out of business. After 102 years of service to the community, the money-losing hospital went public last week with its plans to close by March 31.

        Since the hospital opened in 1897, at least 250,000 Cincinnatians have come into this world at the Oak Street hospital. I am among that number of Bethesda babies. And so is a woman named Reva Talbert.

        “I was born 67 years ago at Bethesda on the day your column appeared,” the birthday girl said from her Covington home. “I still have the blue piece of paper with my little footprint on it. The nurses at the hospital proudly gave that to my mom.”

        “Hospitals help people. Closing one to help the bottom line is a sin.” — R.A. Stevens, Mount Adams.

        “My firstborn was born at Bethesda way back in 1966. We had just moved to Cincinnati from Columbus. Bethesda was the place to go to have a baby. They were so nice to me. I'm sorry for your loss and mine, too.” — Judy Kunzler, North Avondale.

        “I was born at Bethesda on March 16, 1924. Even though, I can't remember that special day, the hospital has always been a favorite place in my heart and in my mind.” — Bud Vance, Anderson Township.

        “Two Bethesda nurses, Miss Wechle and Miss Schneider from Austria, made it possible for my mom to adopt me. And, three of my four children were born at the hospital. So, Bethesda will always live in my soul.” — Tom Stevens, Finneytown.

        In June of 1998, Kent Stickney's daughter, Riley, was born at Bethesda. From his home in Anderson Township, Riley's dad said:

        “If they tear down the hospital, I hope they let people who were born there buy a brick. If I can't drive down Oak Street with Riley to show her where she was born, at the very least, I'd like to have a piece of the building. Bethesda is a special place.”

School violence
        A bomb threat at Mason City Schools and a pipe bomb brought to Colerain High School moved me to write about school violence robbing children of their innocence. The column received many heartfelt replies.

        “Schools have always been places of violence. Now, the violence has turned from abuse and assault to murder. To stop the murder, stop the abuse and assault.” — Bryson Coleman, West Chester.

        “As a teacher and a mother, I know that the few precious years children spend in school are when they should flourish in innocence and imagination. A fear of violence wastes this valuable time.” — Pat Curran, Anderson Township.

Council's scapegoat
        City council uses John Shirey as a scapegoat. If something's wrong in Cincinnati, it's the city manager's fault, not his bosses, the nine council members. My column decrying this logic prompted lots of calls and faxes, all in the city manager's defense.

        “John Shirey has what council lacks, integrity.” — Glenn Bethel, Westwood.

        Commenting on council's bickering and scapegoating, former councilman Peter J. Strauss wrote from Hyde Park:

        “When council couldn't count to five on an issue, John was forced to fill the void and make policy decisions (and carry them out) that should have been made by council.”

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.