PeaceHealth will close Bellingham South Campus and tear down building

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 16, 2013 

SOUTHCAMPUS

PeaceHealth St. Joseph will close its South Campus building and tear it down in the next three years. That building on Chestnut Street used to be the old St. Luke's General Hospital, which St. Joseph Hospital acquired in October 1988. Dec. 10, 2013.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

BELLINGHAM - PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center will close its outdated South Campus and demolish the building in the next three years, according to spokeswoman Amy Cloud.

The building at 809 E. Chestnut St. was the old St. Luke's General Hospital before what was then St. Joseph Hospital bought it in a deal that closed in 1989.

"It is an outdated and expensive facility to maintain. It costs approximately $1 million a year to keep South Campus open and running," Cloud said in an email.

"With older buildings, renovation can be more expensive than updating more modern structures," she added.

PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center also owns the Chestnut Professional Building across the street but doesn't have plans for it as this point, according to Cloud.

PeaceHealth must move some of the programs still in the South Campus building, including its Inpatient Rehabilitation Medicine Unit to its Main Campus on Squalicum Parkway.

Moving that program to the Main Campus will help patients as well.

"Patients will have improved privacy, increased access to specialists and diagnostics, and improved efficiency for providing patient services," Cloud said.

Programs still at the South Campus include Adult Day Health; occupational, physical and speech language therapy; children's neurodevelopment; and outpatient recovery.

PeaceHealth labs and billing are moving now.

PeaceHealth would like to relocate remaining services on the campus by the end of 2014.

"At this time, however, we can't be sure we'll meet that aggressive timeline," Cloud said.

The property will not be put up for sale.

Cloud said PeaceHealth's thee-year plan is to level the old hospital - originally built in 1927 and renovated or expanded over the years including 1957, 1967 and into the 1990s - and plant grass.

The health-care provider will work with the city of Bellingham, the Sehome Neighborhood Association and other stakeholders "to determine the best use of the property," she said.

The Bellingham Arthritis Foundation also has its office in the South Campus building, where it's been for more than 15 years.

The nonprofit will search for a new home starting next year.

"We are looking to move before the end of 2014," said Lori McKnight, development manager for the Arthritis Foundation in Bellingham.

"The hospital has been gracious to us, allowing us to be in this building," McKnight said of PeaceHealth. "We look forward to our new home in Bellingham. We just don't know where that will be."

The South Campus closure won't mean layoffs, Cloud said.

"Decisions regarding workforce are not driven by facilities planning," she said.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.

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