McDonald's gets discharged from the Cleveland Clinic

The dismantling of the Golden Arches at the Cleveland Clinic has been a long time coming.

Two decades after signing a 20-year lease to serve its quick and inexpensive offerings of burgers, fries and shakes on the campus of the Cleveland Clinic, the no-longer welcome McDonald's (MCD) franchise is moving on.

"My family and employees have enjoyed serving the Cleveland Clinic community for the past 20 years," Turan Strange, the owner and operator of the franchise said in a statement. "We invite families and residents in the hospital community to visit our other Cleveland-area restaurants for the variety of balanced choices of food and beverages that we're proud to serve."

The Cleveland Clinic, however, is unlikely to encourage its staff or others to frequent McDonald's or other fast-food outlets.

"Hospitals, at least the way we look at it, should be a role model," Cleveland Clinic spokeswoman Eileen Sheil said in explaining the move to rid the premises of fast food as part of a broader effort at preventative medicine. "We know, from studies and research, that chronic disease is closely linked to obesity in the U.S., which is on the rise."

Consistently ranking among the best in the nation, the hospital signed the long-term lease with Strange under its previous CEO, but it began an active campaign to end the deal ahead of schedule under current chief executive Delos "Toby" Cosgrove, a cardiac surgeon who took over in 2002.

Cosgrove believes selling Big Macs, fries and shakes in the hospital's lobby was sending the wrong message.

Pizza Hut departed without fanfare more than 10 years ago, but McDonald's did not.

As Sheil put it, "We had approached McDonald's about terminating their lease early -- they said 'no.'" When ridding the premises of McDonald's became a long-term proposition, the hospital asked the chain to remove some of the more offensive, health-wise, items from its menu. "We asked, 'can you take out the triple-patty burger?' They said 'no.' We asked, 'could you could just offer diet coke and water for drinks? They said 'no.'"

Cleveland follows a half-dozen U.S. hospitals that have removed McDonald's from their premises since 2009, including Truman Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, which also cited health concerns in bidding farewell to the burger chain.

McDonald's declined to comment for this story about the number of its locations in U.S. hospitals and also declined to address the health issues raised, saying the statement from its franchisee spoke for itself.

The bad press comes as McDonald's continues a turnaround effort under under CEO Steve Easterbook, who took the helm in March and quickly adopted a mantra casting the eatery as a modern, "progressive" purveyor of burger and fries.

And possibly with an eye on the shift in U.S. consumer preferences toward healthier fare, McDonald's last month appointed two board members with links to the health care industry.

"It's clear the corporation's attempts to healthwash its image -- including bringing on two new board members with health-care ties -- are not enough to overcome the corporation's role in driving the epidemic of diet-related disease," said Sriram Madhusoodanan, director of Value [the] Meal campaign at Corporate Accountability International, an advocacy group.

Cleveland Clinic, meantime, is expecting McDonald's to exit in the middle of September. "Some people like their Big Macs," said Sheil, "but they can go somewhere else to get it."