Health

Ronald McDonald House family room close to ready at Deaconess hospital

Mike Forness, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Inland Northwest, right, visits with Steve Carpenter, right, of Bouten Construction, Thursday, June 28, in the Ronald McDonald Family Room in MultiCare Deaconess Hospital. Kassy Marcella works on tiling. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The Ronald McDonald House in Spokane, which has been housing families with children being treated at local hospitals since 1987, is finishing up a new family room at MultiCare Deaconess Hospital.

“I’ve been working on this for 13 years,” said Mike Forness, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Inland Northwest. “This is a huge addition to what we’re doing. MultiCare, once they came on board, put it as a priority.”

The saws are still running and floors are still being finished in the 1,800 square feet of space donated by the hospital on the third floor near the neonatal intensive care unit. A ribbon-cutting is scheduled for July 17, and the space is expected to be open to families Aug. 1.

The space was completely gutted by Bouten Construction crews. Carpet has gone down and cabinets are in place, but the furniture isn’t in yet. “It used to be patient rooms,” Forness said. “More recently it was clinical space.”

There are four sleeping rooms that can accommodate nine people. There is also a living room, kitchen, dining room and a washer and a dryer that will be available to families 24 hours a day. People can nap in the sleeping rooms during the day but they will be reserved at night. A shower is available in the sleeping area.

“You’ll see a little slice of home in the middle of the hospital,” Forness said. “It doesn’t feel like home yet.”

Parents can come in to watch television, have a snack and get coffee in an area that doesn’t have the feel of a hospital. Various groups, including local businesses, provide lunch and dinner for families. Forness expects the new family room to serve up to 50 NICU parents a day.

“The opportunity for the families to get away from the medical focus and be in a comfortable space without having to leave the hospital is important to NICU parents,” he said. “The hospital rolls off your shoulders and you’re in part of a home.”

The project was funded by donations made to Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Inland Northwest. The final cost of the project is yet to be determined, Forness said.

There is a similarly sized family room at Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital that was created 16 years ago and a family room without a sleeping area at Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene.

The Ronald McDonald House at 1015 W. Fifth Ave. can accommodate approximately 22 families or up to 60 people. Families usually spend a few days or up to two weeks on a waiting list before they can get in.

“We’re full all the time,” he said. “This will help with our waiting list. We are very excited now to have a Ronald McDonald House at three hospitals in the area.”

More expansion is coming. A hospitality center is being built at Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene that will include Ronald McDonald sleep rooms and a Walden House, which provides housing to families with adult family members in the hospital.

“That’s our biggest initiative right now is to find a way to serve more families,” Forness said. “The population is growing, the capacity for pediatrics and children’s services is growing, and we want to grow along with that.”