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Plans call for lodging center at Kootenai Health

A tour guide leads a group past the expanded neonatal intensive care unit in Kootenai Health’s east during a tour of the new wing of the hospital in Coeur d’Alene on  Feb. 25, 2016. The expansion of neonatal intensive care services at Kootenai has sparked plans for a Ronald McDonald House facility in Coeur d’Alene. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
A tour guide leads a group past the expanded neonatal intensive care unit in Kootenai Health’s east during a tour of the new wing of the hospital in Coeur d’Alene on Feb. 25, 2016. The expansion of neonatal intensive care services at Kootenai has sparked plans for a Ronald McDonald House facility in Coeur d’Alene. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Growth at Kootenai Health is spurring plans to build a lodging center on the hospital campus, with one side of the facility as a Ronald McDonald House, for use by pediatric patients and their families.

The hospitality center is set to go on an empty lot on the northwest corner of the hospital campus to offer a home-like setting, with kitchen and laundry facilities. Early plans call for 14 adult rooms and a separate space for six Ronald McDonald House rooms available to pediatric patient families.

The facility’s side for adult overnight stays will be called Walden House and will replace the older Walden home on the campus that currently offers temporary lodging with eight rooms. The new hospitality center is expected to open in early 2019.

Community Cancer Fund has led the fundraising to build the facility, working with Kootenai Health and Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Inland Northwest. Other plans call for recreational spaces, along with access to walking trails and a shuttle service.

Ronald McDonald House guests will receive services such as meal and pet therapy programs.

This would be the first Ronald McDonald House in Coeur d’Alene, driven by the 2016 expansion of the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and expanding pediatric services, said Mike Forness. He is executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Inland Northwest.

“It will provide a free place where families can stay so they can be close to their baby or child,” Forness said.

“We want to go where families need our services. Because of Kootenai Health’s growth in NICU and pediatric services, there are families we could provide a service to. Kootenai Health and the Cancer Care Fund invited us into this project.”

In June, the organization opened a Ronald McDonald Family Room inside Kootenai Health’s NICU. The nonprofit stocks the room with food and coffee for parents of babies in the NICU.

“There is a small kitchen set-up, living room, and showers,” Forness said. “It’s for day use only, so there is not any overnight lodging, but it’s inside the NICU and only available to the NICU parents.”

Ronald McDonald House in Spokane can host 22 families, he said, and it has overnight accommodations for four families in one of two family rooms inside Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital.

Once the hospitality center at Kootenai Health is complete, Community Cancer Fund plans to gift the facility to the Coeur d’Alene hospital, and the local Ronald McDonald organization will manage both sides of the new hospitality center, said Jerid Keefer, Community Cancer Fund executive director.

One goal is to help patients traveling for cancer care who need to stay near the hospital. One third of all patients seen at Kootenai Health are from outside Kootenai County, according to a news release.

One such person is John Hibbs, 31, of Libby, Montona. He recently stayed in the Walden House during a week of chemo treatments.

“I needed to be near the hospital and I don’t like big-city driving,” Hibbs said. “To me, big city driving is Coeur d’Alene. My chemo treatment lasted about six hours a day, so I was kind of wiped out.”

He said other hotels in the region were at least $80 to $100 a night, and he paid $40 a night.

“That cut out some stress; I was able to walk to my treatments. It was nice meeting other people going through a similar situation.”

Parents of pediatric patients will be able to stay at the new center free of charge through Ronald McDonald House Charities. The adult-stay area will be available to patients with any diagnosis and their families, not only those fighting cancer, with those guests offered a reduced rate.

Once funds are raised, Community Cancer Fund expects design work to begin this fall and construction by next summer.