Bethesda Hospital will transform to address the homelessness crisis

After more than a century of historic service — including serving as Minnesota’s first dedicated COVID-19 treatment facility — Bethesda Hospital will transform again to meet another urgent community need.

For 137 years, Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul has served Minnesota. Now, the hospital is about to begin a new chapter helping some of the most vulnerable in our community.

In partnership with Ramsey County, Bethesda will help address the homelessness crisis, providing shelter this winter to hundreds of Minnesotans, giving people the space needed to rebuild their lives while helping to reduce COVID-19 spread among the unsheltered. Ramsey County leaders will address a lease agreement for the Bethesda facility beginning this week at their board meeting.

Our dedicated COVID-19 care center, currently located within Bethesda Hospital, will move to nearby St. Joseph’s Hospital. Following the move, Bethesda will be thoroughly cleaned and overhauled. “When our community was in need, we were able to quickly convert Bethesda Hospital into one of the nation’s first dedicated COVID-19 hospitals,” said Fairview Chief Operating Officer Laura Reed. “Now, it will again transform to meet another urgent community need: supportive housing for the unsheltered.”

Fairview began exploring new uses for the hospital in 2019, when we announced a reduction in capacity. In response to the pandemic, however, we reopened the facility on March 27, 2020, as a dedicated COVID-19 hospital. Equipped with specialized intensive care units (ICUs) and staffed by experts who treated hundreds of Minnesota’s most severely ill COVID-19 patients, Bethesda has had a COVID-19 patient survival rate exceeding other hospitals around the world. This proven approach to COVID-19 care will be adopted at St. Joseph’s.

During this time, we continued meeting with important groups and stakeholders in St. Paul to determine the best possible long-term purpose for the hospital. Our bold new vision for Bethesda is a result of those conversations and the responses shared by the community partners. We recognize that health and wellbeing don’t start or end at a hospital or a doctor’s visit. For our communities to be healthy, we must help address social factors — like homelessness — that affect the people we serve.

Our decision to work with Ramsey County to convert Bethesda into a center for supportive housing is not the only change we’re making to dismantle health disparities and barriers to accessible care. We have also unveiled a vision for St. Joseph’s Hospital to be reborn as a hub for health equity and wellbeing. Learn more about our plans for St. Joseph’s.

The long-term acute care service provided at Bethesda before the onset of COVID-19 will remain at St. Joseph’s Hospital at this time.

Together, we believe these two re-imagined facilities will transform health outcomes in the surrounding communities and improve health rather than just treat sickness.