MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on a lease agreement for Bethesda Hospital after M Health Fairview announced Monday that it would be closing the St. Paul hospital.

The restructuring means 900 people will lose their jobs; the job losses will be systemwide, not necessarily at Bethesda. There are currently 1,200 open roles in the system, a spokesperson with M Health Fairview says.

Ramsey County commissioners held a virtual meeting Tuesday to talk about turning Bethesda into a shelter for the Twin Cities growing homeless population.

“There have been approximately 300 plus individuals sleeping outside on any given night,” Ryan O’Connor Ramsey County Manager said.

O’Connor told the board of commissioners converting Bethesda Hospital into a homeless shelter would provide an immediate need, but is not meant to be a long term solution.

“So this would be significant, but not complete approach,” he said.

The shelter would house around 125 people.

Ramsey County also has plans to move its respite care facility services in the battle creek neighborhood of St. Paul to Bethesda.
The board said the commissioners first heard of the opportunity in mid-September.

As part of M Health Fairview transferring the lease to the county, they are eliminating hundreds of jobs.

Ramsey County Board of Commissioners Mary Jo McGuire acknowledged workforce changes.

“How these employees that are being affected by these layoffs what that means for a number of them are Ramsey County residents and how we’re going to be working to help with that,” McGuire said.

Emily Allen is a nurse who offered to transfer from St. Joseph’s to Bethesda to help with COVID-19 patients.

“We’re all in shock,” she said. “I feel really really bad for the people that are going to lose their jobs. It will be respiratory therapists, nursing assistants, just a wide variety of people.”

The board reiterated they needed long term solutions.

“I can’t sleep easier knowing that we have not made any progress on homelessness in the last three years other than the county continuing to invest more money in a crisis solution that should not be in our community,” Commissioner Jim McDonough said.

A long term lease agreement with Ramsey County would go through the Spring of 2022.

Bethesda has been used as a hospital to treat COVID-19 patients since the pandemic arrived in Minnesota. Those patients will be moved to St. Joseph Hospital.

Kate Raddatz