Wednesday, November 17, 1999

TriHealth to announce restructuring

Bethesda Oak rumored to close

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The TriHealth hospital group, which includes Good Samaritan, Bethesda North and Bethesda Oak hospitals, plans to make an announcement today regarding a hospital restructuring.

        However, officials would not comment about rumors that the hospital group plans to close Bethesda Oak Hospital.

        Dr. Bruce Allen, a Hyde Park obstetrician, said Tuesday that he has received a fax inviting him to a special staff meeting today to discuss a “restructuring of hospital services.”

        “The rumor going around is that they're going to shut down Bethesda Oak,” Dr. Allen said.

        Jeff Blunt, TriHealth spokesman, confirmed that doctors were invited to meetings. He also confirmed that a public announcement would be made soon. But he would not comment about details of the restructuring.

        TriHealth policy is to inform employees about changes before announcing them to the public, Mr. Blunt said.

        Bethesda Oak has the sixth-busiest obstetrics unit of the 20 Greater Cincinnati hospitals that deliver babies; 2,130 babies were born there in 1998.

        Plans to downsize the hos pital have come up before.

        TriHealth has already moved many high-tech surgical and diagnostic services from Bethesda Oak to Bethesda North. In 1997, Tri- Health officials proposed closing the Bethesda Oak emergency department and nearly all overnight hospital services except for obstetrics. After doctors complained, administrators backed off that plan.

        Instead, the hospital rebuilt the front entrance and remodeled several sections of Bethesda Oak as part of a $7 million project to build a “medical mall” for outpatient care.

        However, TriHealth has continued to struggle financially — including a $30 million loss on operations in fiscal 1999. Meanwhile, other hospitals have been making deep service cuts, including the recently announced plan to close obstetric services at Jewish Hospital in Kenwood.

        “I think closing (Bethesda Oak) would be a shame for the community,” Dr. Allen said. “It has a very good OB unit and excellent nurses.”

        Patients could use other nearbyhospitals, including University, Christ and Good Samaritan. But since Jewish Hospital closed its Avondale campus, Dr. Allen said, he wonders how many more patients the other Pill Hill hospitals could handle.


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