Sunday, August 20, 2000

TriHealth decides to sell Bethesda Oak buildings

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        After considering several options, TriHealth officials have decided to sell the former Bethesda Oak Hospital.

        The asking price has not been decided, officials say. But plans call for moving 336 employees still working at the Avondale hospital to other buildings over the next several months.

        “We considered converting it into an administrative center, but it would cost a lot of money to retrofit,” said Steve Schwalbe, TriHealth vice president of strategic planning. “We'd like to see it re-developed into something else.”

        After a history spanning 102 years, Bethesda Oak's days as a hospital ended Feb. 4 when staff shut down the emergency department and transferred the sole remaining patient to Good Samaritan Hospital two miles away.

        Plans to close Bethesda Oak had been announced months before, when executives revealed the hospital had been losing money for years and faced a $19 million loss in 1999 alone. Since then, there has been much speculation over what would happen to the facility.

        The only part TriHealth plans to sell is the main hospital building and four attached buildings that comprise more than 300,000 square feet — making it one of the larger development sites inside the City of Cincinnati's borders. The entire 15-acre Bethesda Oak campus encompasses 13 build ings, including two medical offices that still house more than 70 doctors.

        More than two dozen organizations, with a variety of projects in mind, have contacted TriHealth to lease parts of the old Bethesda Oak. But none wanted to take on the entire facility, Mr. Schwalbe said.

        “We decided we didn't want to be a landlord,” he said.

        Deciding to sell Bethesda Oak marks a contrast to the re-use of Jewish Hospital, also in Avondale, which closed in 1997. After moving services to an expanded hospital in Kenwood, the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati decided to convert the former Jewish Hospital into a central laboratory and office center that employs more than 1,000 people.


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