Alaska Native Medical Center to host state’s first Ronald McDonald House

(Photo via Alaska Native Medical Center)
(Photo via Alaska Native Medical Center)

Alaska’s first “Ronald McDonald House” is opening next year at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage. The facility will provide temporary housing at little or no cost for pregnant women and families with children receiving care.

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The Alaska Native Medical Center provides specialty medical services to tens of thousands of Alaska Natives and veterans who live in rural areas, as well as primary care for local residents. For those who need to stay overnight, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium is building a six-story housing facility with a total of 170 rooms for patients who travel to Anchorage for specialty care.

Michelle Scharlock is director of communications for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of western Washington and Alaska. She says the 6th floor of the new building will be designated as the Ronald McDonald House, and will be designed for women with high-risk pregnancies and families staying near their children receiving care.

“We’ll have 34 rooms, which will each have their own bed, as well as a sleeper chair, and there will be common areas; there’s a common kitchen,” she said. “We’re hoping it’ll be a really cozy, homey place for new mothers as well as pediatric patients.”

Lee Ann Garrick is director of strategic access for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. She says because women with high risk pregnancies often stay near the hospital for two to three weeks, the Consortium tried to honor their wishes for places to gather.

“That area will have its own larger kitchen, a larger communal kitchen so that we can provide Alaska Native cultural programming like healthy cooking classes or traditional foods cooking classes, and there’s a larger lounge in that area that is really focused on a more family environment,” Garrick said. “So if people want to share their experiences they can. We heard from many patients that they would love to do beadwork with others up there, or they would love to learn how to knit.”

Ronald McDonald Charities is contributing furnishings and supplies, and a part-time staff person.

The $40 million construction project is funded by tribal health organizations, the Indian Health Service, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, and a gift from the law firm of Sonosky, Chambers, Sasche, Miller & Munson.

Ronald McDonald Charities and ANTHC say the project grew out of a partnership formed in 2008 in which the foundation provided a van for ANMC patient shuttles.