Rotary House keeps patients and loved ones close

When Susan Southwell, a Vancouver resident, found out her mom was admitted to the Grey Nuns Community Hospital in Edmonton, there was no question that she needed to be by her side.

“My mom went into the hospital dying of colon cancer,” Susan says. “I went to Edmonton to be with her, but finding a place to stay was an issue. I didn’t have a lot to work with.”

With no friends or family nearby, Susan worried about finding an affordable place to stay, especially since she didn’t know how long she would be in Edmonton.

That’s when a friend told Susan about Rotary House, which is located across the street from the Grey Nuns and charges only $55 per night. The house-like lodging allows out-of-town guests to stay near the hospital without having to worry about transportation, parking and steep hotel costs.

With no hotels within walking distance of the hospital, finding accommodation, especially on short notice, can compound stress and financial worry for out-of-town patients and their families. 

“The Rotary House allows families to stay together in close proximity to the hospital to support their loved ones,” says Lidija Horvat-Jost, Business Manager, Associates of Caritas. “It helps ease their minds so they don’t have to worry about a place to stay.”

This is exactly why Rotary House was established by the Mill Woods Rotary Club and many other donors more than 25 years ago. About 15 years ago, Rotary House operations were transferred to the Associates of Caritas, which operates businesses in Edmonton Covenant Health sites and donates profits back to the hospitals to enhance patient care and comfort.

Today, the non-profit Rotary House is self-sufficient, with revenue from room bookings supporting its upkeep. The Associates of Caritas donates any extra profits back to the Grey Nuns Community Hospital.

For Susan, who stayed at Rotary House from May until her mom’s passing July 16, staying so close meant the two could visit every day. Susan was able to bring her mother simple joys such as coffee and favourite treats, and she cherishes the memories she has of their last few months together. 

“I was grateful for a place so close to the hospital so I could be with her,” Susan says. “If your loved one is very sick, it gives you some comfort to be with them. You show them you care and you feel better knowing you were there to help. It was a saving grace for me.”

 Being able to rest in the evenings just a few steps away from the hospital was also a comfort.

“I found it quite peaceful,” Susan says. “I would go back and sit in the house and try to watch television or do jigsaw puzzles. It was sort of a haven after coming out of the hospital.”

Susan and her mother

Though Susan is now back in Vancouver, she says the Rotary House left a lasting impression on her. She hopes to come back one day and visit the staff she got to know during her time there.

“It was a special place to me and I’ll never forget it,” she says. “Rotary House was a refuge to me, and I wish future guests the same experience.”

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