Facing cancer is hard. Traveling out of town for treatment can make it even harder.
For more than 20 years, Rotary House has served thousands of patients and caregivers who come to MD Anderson’s Texas Medical Center location each year for cancer treatment.
“We have a patient who travels to MD Anderson from halfway across the country and stays at Rotary House during her treatments. She feels like we’re part of her family,” says Mary Monsalve, lead patient representative for Patient Guest Relations at Rotary House. “She recently had the opportunity to go home for a month between her treatments, but she decided to stay here since she had people she could count on. It’s wonderful to know patients feel so welcome and at home here.”
The full-service hotel, owned by MD Anderson and operated by Marriott International, is being fully renovated by our Facilities team to modernize its look and improve amenities that are important to patients.
“Our goal is to provide our guests with hospitality and comfort during what often is the most challenging and difficult time in their lives,” says Kyle Ariza, general manager of Rotary House. “These renovations will help us continue to do that.”
Rotary House was built in 1993 to replace a converted apartment building owned by MD Anderson that rented units to long-term chemotherapy patients. When Rotary House opened, it included 198 rooms and a skybridge connecting to MD Anderson. As MD Anderson grew, so did the need for nearby accommodations.
In 2001, Rotary House expanded to 322 rooms. The expansion included the addition of Patient Guest Relations, a liaison service between MD Anderson clinical care and patients staying at Rotary House, as well as common hotel amenities like a gift shop, conference center and indoor pool. Since then, Rotary House has added lab services, so patients staying at the hotel can have their blood drawn in preparation for appointments.
A new look
Rotary House began renovations in August 2015 to improve its look and better meet our patients’ needs.
“Rotary House is an important part of our patient and caregiver experience at MD Anderson,” says Tim Peglow, associate vice president for Patient Care and Prevention Facilities. “The renovation project will renew the appearance and functionality of the Rotary House.”
“This project is the first major renovation that includes all the rooms and common spaces since the expansion in 2001,” adds Randy English, senior facilities project manager. “It serves as a home away from home for many our patients, months at a time in some cases, and it’s important that our caring reaches them even through their hotel experience.”
Listening to our patients
When Rotary House was built, MD Anderson staged model rooms in an empty warehouse so patients and health care specialists could help design the most accommodating rooms and facilities. Those accommodations included using special color schemes to enhance appetite and building wide hallways to allow for wheelchair use.
Over the years, Rotary House has continued to track suggestions from our patients and has made sure to address those when planning for these renovations. When the renovations are completed this summer, the hotel lobby and common spaces will feature modern aesthetics and artwork, additional seating and lounging areas, an updated restaurant and bar, an improved business center and an enlarged space for patient lab services.
“It’s important for the space to be homelike and calming,” says Lynn Bouchard, senior facilities planner and designer. “It’s also important for it to be very different from any space at the hospital or in any of our clinics.”
All 322 guest rooms will feature new furniture and bedding, larger TVs, improved lighting, air conditioning units with wireless thermostats and desks with more connectivity. A majority of the rooms will have stand-up showers, which are easier for some patients to use.
“We’ve tried to incorporate things that are most useful for our patients. Every room will now have a microwave, refrigerator and desk, which we didn’t have before,” Ariza says. “All of these changes hopefully will give patients a more positive and refreshing feeling when staying at Rotary House.”
A longer version of this story originally appeared in Messenger, MD Anderson’s bimonthly employee publication.