Home Away from Home
By Renee Beasley Jones, Messenger-Inquirer
Photo by Greg Eans, Messenger-Inquirer.com | Greg Strahan, president and CEO of Owensboro Health, right, looks over a hospitality suite Wednesday with Cherie Willis, volunteer and guest services supervisor at the hospital in Owensboro.
About the Hospitality Suites
On the ground floor of Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, there's a little-known wing of sorts.
It's tucked away just steps from elevators that take patients up to doctors' offices on the Pleasant Valley Medical Office Building, which is attached to OHRH. A set of double doors at the end of a short hallway are marked with a plague that reads Owensboro Health Hospitality Suites.
Few people know a hotel of sorts lies beyond those double doors.
A home away from home
Once inside the hospitality unit, a common area greets guests. It is filled with dining tables, couches, a computer, TV and a gaming system for kids. A few steps down the hall is a kitchen where members of the OH Volunteer Auxiliary bake fresh cookies for guests.
Every morning, staff members put out a complimentary breakfast of cereal and cereal bars. At all times, Otis Spunkmeyer cookies wrapped in crisp, white bags tempt guests, along with muffins and other treats.
The hospitality unit offers seven private suites with living rooms, microwave ovens, refrigerators, spacious bedrooms and baths. Rooms come with cable TV, complimentary coffee and hot chocolate, toiletries, Wi-Fi access -- and a big dose of peace and quiet.
The Caring Heart Mission Group from Crosspointe Baptist Church provides baskets of goodies that are placed on top of the microwave in each room. The baskets contain puzzle books, popcorn, bags of Goldfish crackers and Oreo cookies, water and more.
Guests may use the unit's laundry facilities at no charge. Detergent and fabric softener are provided.
Hospital housekeeping staff clean the rooms daily.
One unit offers two bedrooms and sleeps six people. It is compliant with federal disability requirements.
Four of the suites sleep up to four people.
The seventh suite is ADA compliant and holds two people.
The overnight fee for these accommodations?
Guests pay only $25 per night for single occupancy rooms and $35 a night for the double occupancy/ADA suites. Donors and the OH Foundation make that low price possible.
The foundation also provides scholarships for families that can't afford the fee. No one is turned away because of an inability to pay.
Fulfilling our mission
The OH Hospitality Suites help fulfill the health system's mission to the region, said Greg Strahan, president and CEO.
"We feel like this has been a great addition to our service," Strahan said.
OH treats patients in a 17-county region. Many of them travel quite a distance to the hospital to receive care. Loved ones want to remain close in case of an emergency.
The average stay for newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit is 12 days, Strahan said. The hospital's longest stay was 120 days.
It's difficult for parents to leave a fragile infant. With the hospitality suites, they don't have to.
"If they are needed, they can get there quickly," Strahan said.
Bringing comfort to families
He has read letters of thanks from family members who used the hospitality suites. They write health system officials because the ability to stay just a few floors away meant so much to them, he said.
Also, guests often fill out comment cards, which are available in rooms and at the check-out desk.
"I thank God I am able to rest in a nice, safe room while taking care of my sick husband," one guest wrote on her comment card.
"What a loving place to stay while taking care of my very sick husband," one comment card reads. "Going home with Hospice. I will miss the friendly ladies at the desk."
The suites rent on a day-by-day basis, said Cherie Willis, OH supervisor of volunteer and guest services.
Guests call 270-417-3120 or stop by the hospital reception desk to inquire about room availability.
"ICU and NICU get higher priority," Willis said.
Other considerations are the condition of the patient, the guest's involvement in the patient's plan of care, the guest's distance from home, accessibility to transportation, other emergent needs and financial needs.
Rooms are not available to patients being treated at other OH locations, such as the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center.
Occupancy rates vary. However, if suites are full, staff inform family members of discounted rates at various hotels in town.
An inspired idea
Strahan credited the idea of building a hospitality wing on the new hospital to the late Waitman Taylor, a long-time employee of the OH Foundation.
Taylor's first wife was diagnosed with cancer and spent time at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. While she was hospitalized there, Taylor made use of that facility's overnight accommodations.
"It was a great idea from our perspective," Strahan said of the hospitality suites.
According to the hospitality suites' brochure, the maximum stay is five days. However, OH officials have made exceptions. The longest stay has been 30 days, Willis said.
OH employees are passionate about the hospitality wing, said Cathie Medley, OH Foundation manager.
"The community and our employees got behind this in a big way," she said.
For example, during the fundraising phase, OH employees donated $265,000 through payroll deductions to build the hospitality suites.
The OH Foundation, the health system's nonprofit fundraising arm, provides the funding to replace linens, toiletries and other items at the hospitality suites. Also, the unit's maintenance is covered by foundation gifts.
Donor envelopes are available in every suite, and gratuities left for housekeeping staff are donated to the foundation for the unit's upkeep, Willis said.
Community donors may adopt a family for a week for $150 or pay any other amount to support the suites' operation. Checks should be made to Owensboro Health Foundation OR and mail them to Owensboro Health Foundation, P.O. Box 22505, Owensboro, KY 42304.
This article originally ran in the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer on August 28, 2019.