Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mayo Clinic partners for patient housing

One of the major roadblocks for patients traveling to distant centers for treatment is the financial hardships they face with expenses for travel, housing and meals, etc. At the same time they must maintain their existing residence back home. The Mayo Clinic Florida and it's partners are to be congratulated for this initiative that will be certain to help lift the burden of worry for transplant and cancer patients.

Jacksonville Business Journal

JACKSONVILLE — Mayo Clinic Florida and St. Andrew’s Lighthouse say they are partnering to build an $8.8 million extended-stay facility to house cancer and organ transplant patients and their families.

The Gabriel House of Care, a 30-bedroom hospitality house, will be built on a 4.5-acre lakeside site on Mayo Clinic’s campus in Jacksonville. It will be leased to and managed by St. Andrew’s Lighthouse, a Jacksonville not-for-profit that provides extended-stay housing to patients visiting local hospitals for specialized medical treatment.

Mayo Clinic is raising $13.5 million for the project, some of which will fund future operations and expansion. St. Andrew’s Lighthouse is also embarking on a campaign to raise funds to support the operational needs of the house.

The facility has been named in honor of an organ donor to Jorge and Leslie Bacardi of Nassau, Bahamas, who made the lead gift. Jorge Bacardi was the recipient of an organ who they named “Gabriel” before later learning that the donor was Christopher Gregory, a 19-year-old student from Baltimore, Md., who died from a brain aneurysm.

Ground breaking for the facility is set for March. Construction is expected to take about a year.

Both Mayo Clinic and St. Andrew’s Lighthouse representatives say the growing number of patients residing in Jacksonville for extended periods has created a need for specialized housing, similar to the hospitality houses Mayo Clinic has at its hospitals in Arizona and Minnesota.

Joan Weber, project director at Mayo Clinic, said the hospital will perform about 330 transplants by the end of the year.

“We knew from the time we started that we needed something bigger in order to meet the need,” said Ed Asher, executive director of St. Andrew’s Lighthouse, which also works with Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital and the University of Florida Proton Beam Research Institute. “Mayo’s transplant center has grown to one of the largest transplant centers in the country, so a lot of people are traveling here, and housing is a big component of that because they don’t always know how long they will be here.”

Depending on the treatment protocol, cancer patients may stay for six-to-eight weeks, but transplant patients waiting for a donor are frequently required to be on call in the immediate area, meaning their stay could be weeks to months or longer. Hotels can become very expensive, and the two existing St. Andrews houses are only able to house eight families.

The Gabriel House will be designed to be as much like a home as possible with furnished bedrooms with a private bathroom and full access to amenities including a stocked family kitchen, laundry and living room. There will also be an industrial kitchen for large events, in addition to meeting rooms for support groups, a library, chapel, game room, computer lab and exercise facility. The idea behind so many common areas is that patients and their families who are going through similar treatments can share their experiences and provide support to each other.

“It can be a really hard experience,” Asher said. “People come scared and sick, and so we try to make it as homey as possible.”

Weber said the unique needs of patients and their families for affordable, extended-stay housing makes Gabriel House a great benefit to patients.

“This has been a long-term goal of ours and we’re glad to see it come to fruition,” Weber said.

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