Froedtert Hospital & the Medical College of Wisconsin are providing key funding in plans to build a new Kathy's House facility on the County Grounds.
"This is a game changer," Kathy's House executive director Patty Metropulos said. "It's amazing to have their support to take this to the next level."
The current Kathy's House is located on the St. Camillus campus at 600 N. 103rd St. and is open to patients of any Milwaukee area hospital, but Froedtert Hospital long has been its primary referral source. In 2016, 94 percent of Kathy’s House’s 1,400 guests were patients or family members referred by the Froedtert & MCW health network, and 85 percent had a cancer diagnosis.
MCW and Froedtert will be the lead investor for the project, and has committed to fund $6 million of the estimated $7 million project cost. Metropulos said Kathy’s House will seek donations to raise the remaining $1 million needed to build the facility. The specific location of the new building has not yet been decided.
“We are grateful for Froedtert Hospital’s support as we undertake this significant, transformative step for our organization,” Metropulos said. “We envision taking Kathy’s House to the next level, continuing our mission to provide a comforting place for people in a critical time of need and also becoming a national model for hospital guest houses, using best practices to help improve care outcomes and reduce hospital readmissions.”
A nonprofit hospital guest house, Kathy’s House provides lodging, meals and respite for non-local patients and their families who come to the Milwaukee area for medical care. Founded in 2001 in Wauwatosa, it is the only such facility in southeastern Wisconsin that serves people of all ages. Metropulos said Kathy’s House has been operating at capacity for several years, and the 2021 expiration of its lease with St. Camillus Health Center for its current site added urgency to efforts to find a new, larger location.
"They notified us in 2013 that they did not intend to renew the lease," Metropulos said. "They have helped us fulfill our mission for the past 15 years."
More guest rooms
At this time a construction timeline has not been established. Plans call for a 20,000-square-foot building that would increase the current 18 guest rooms to 24 and include a special wing for long-term guests. Outpatient bone marrow transplant patients often stay at Kathy’s House for up to 14 weeks, Metropulos said. The House is open year-round and staffed around the clock.
“Our support of this next step for Kathy’s House is a natural extension of our 16-year relationship,” Cathy Buck, president of Froedtert Hospital said. “As an academic medical center and regional referral destination, the Froedtert & MCW health network draws patients from throughout the state and the nation. The availability of an affordable home away from home is a tremendous relief for patients who must travel for care.”
According to Metropulos, Kathy’s House's average occupancy reached an all-time high of 85 percent in 2016, capping five straight years of record-breaking growth. The continuing growth spurred the Kathy’s House board of directors to undertake a strategic planning process, which included visits to a dozen hospital guest houses across the U.S. to research design and program approaches.
Since it opened nearly 17 years ago, Kathy’s House has provided lodging and support to approximately 16,000 guests. Nearly all reside at least 50 miles from Milwaukee; 18 percent live outside the Midwest region, including other countries.
Kathy’s House was founded in 2001 by the parents of Kathy Vogel Kuettner, a Milwaukee cancer patient who had deep empathy for fellow patients who traveled to the city for care and faced illness without the support of nearby family and friends. Kathy died in 2000 but her wish to help others lives on.