KRMC to Get Ronald McDonald House Charities Family Room

By Beacon Staff

In yet another sign of Kalispell Regional Medical Center’s emergence as a medical destination, the hospital is adding a Ronald McDonald House Charities room for families who travel from out of the area seeking health care.

When the family room is unveiled in January, the hospital will join a small handful of Montana health care providers with a Ronald McDonald House Charities service.

The KRMC room will offer a welcoming environment for people to spend time while a relative under the age of 21 is undergoing medical treatment. The age stipulation is designed to focus on families who have children in the hospital’s care.

Family members can relax on a couch, eat food, do laundry, check the Internet and enjoy a few comforts of home during a situation that may otherwise be stressful. It’s far more inviting than the waiting room.

“It’s just a comfortable place to go and they don’t pay anything,” Laura White, a board member with the local Ronald McDonald House Charities, said.

St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings has a similar set of family room suites, along with a full house and a mobile medical van. Missoula also has a full Ronald McDonald house in which sleeping accommodations are provided. Overnight services are offered at St. Vincent’s suites as well.

The family room at KRMC will initially only offer daytime services, including a fully furnished kitchen and computers, though in the future the hospital hopes to build overnight suites similar to those in Billings, according to Tagen Vine, president of the Northwest Healthcare Foundation.

Vine said KRMC officials like the idea of keeping the family area inside the hospital, as opposed to a separate detached house, to keep it situated close to child services. He said the room will be particularly useful for mothers whose young ones are in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit or other pediatric units.

“That’s kind of the model we’d be looking at here: building within the hospital’s walls close to child services,” Vine said.

Though the new Ronald McDonald area won’t have overnight accommodations, the hospital already has beds available. Vine pointed out that the beds are located in the same wing as the family room.

Expanding the Ronald McDonald area into overnight suites in the future would allow even more hospital visitors to have access to everything they need, from a stocked kitchen to a place to sleep, saving the family from traveling to restaurants or finding a hotel.

Roughly 20 to 30 percent of hospital visitation comes from out of Flathead County, Vine said, which is a stark difference from years past when almost all of KRMC’s visitors were local.

Vine said the partnership between KRMC and Ronald McDonald House Charities has allowed the family room to become a reality after years in the making. He also said generous donors have contributed to the project.

Ronald McDonald House Charities raises money through fundraising and donations, including coins collected at boxes at McDonald’s restaurant locations. The charity contributed around $15,000 to help build Miracle Field at the Kidsports Complex, White said.

“All those nickels and dimes that go in those little boxes add up,” she said.

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