Effort gives comfort to cancer patients

American Cancer Society facility provides free accommodations for cancer patients in town for treatment.
MCT Regional News
Dec 23, 2013

Receiving treatment in an unfamiliar city after a serious medical diagnosis can be daunting enough without the worry of where you are going to sleep and how to pay for that lodging.

Unlike in Cleveland and Cincinnati, Columbus has no Hope Lodge — an American Cancer Society facility that provides free accommodations for cancer patients in town for treatment. There are 31 nationwide.

But the cancer society has announced a partnership with Extended Stay America that started this month in the Columbus area. Patients coming to Columbus for cancer treatment who meet certain financial criteria can qualify for a free room or one that costs $12 per night at one of eight Extended Stay locations.

The typical rate for such rooms in the Columbus area is $55 to $90 a night, said Rick Canale, the hotel chain’s vice president of marketing, strategy and planning.

The national partnership includes 10,000 free overnight stays and another 10,000 discounted stays first come, first served. The program was first offered in Boston, Atlanta and Houston in November and was expanded last week to Columbus; Nashville, Tenn.; Durham and Charlotte, N.C.; and Dallas.

It is to go nationwide early next year.

Hope Lodges cost $8 million to $10 million each to build and $350,000 to $500,000 to operate, said Kristen Solt, vice president of the Hope Lodge Network. There are no plans to build one in Columbus.

The partnership is “the next best thing,” Solt said. “The $12 is so much lower than any other (medical) discount we have with other hotels.”

In the Columbus area, the medical rate for hotel stays is $92 to $99, the cancer society said.

The need for such facilities runs high in Columbus. The city ranks 12th nationally in the number of patients who travel more than 40 miles for outpatient cancer treatment here, Solt said.

Most hospitals don’t have their own lodging for patients, though Ohio State University patients can stay in 22 units that are leased at university-owned Buckeye Village. Many hospitals also try to connect patients and their families with discounted lodging options.

On average, cancer patients who contact the American Cancer Society about lodging request assistance for three to six overnight stays, Solt said. “It’s a game-changer for some people to have that free or discounted lodging.”

To help meet the need for lodging among families of pediatric patients, Ronald McDonald House near Nationwide Children’s Hospital is undergoing a $6 million expansion, adding 42 rooms to its current 80.

The addition at the Livingston Avenue facility will make it the world’s largest Ronald McDonald House. The work is to be completed by the end of May, said CEO and Executive Director Dee Anders.

On average, the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus saves families about $1,400 in lodging, travel and food costs in an eight-day stay, according to data provided by Anders. It added up to about $3.6 million in savings for families in 2011.

On average, the facility is at capacity two days a week and has to put families on a waiting list.

Audrey Miesse of Celina, in western Ohio, said she has had trouble at times securing lodging at the Ronald McDonald House when she and her 18-year-old daughter, Morgan, are in town for treatment of Morgan’s mitochondrial disorder.

Miesse said she has had to overdraft her checking account to pay for a hotel room. Other times, she said, she has canceled a second day of appointments because Morgan is too weak to return to Columbus after traveling the previous day.

Miesse said she hopes she’ll be able to rely on the Ronald McDonald House after its expansion.

“It would mean a tremendous lot,” she said. “We wouldn’t have to try to worry about coming up with money for food and parking, her being exhausted and not being able to make it for a second day of appointments.”

To request an Extended Stay America room, cancer patients or their caregivers should contact the American Cancer Society at 800-227-2345.

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By Ben Sutherly - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)

©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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