For immediate release                                                                                Contact: Mary Gastner, 507-424-0819

(Rochester, MN) - Olmsted County issued its first medical lodging licenses earlier this spring, marking a significant step forward in ensuring Rochester's medical visitors are directed to safe, quality lodging.

 Rochester's Serenity House Network has met construction, maintenance, and operations standards needed to be licensed as medical lodging establishments for 17 of its fully furnished apartments and houses that provide home-like accommodations for medical visitors. The network has additional license applications in the pipeline for other properties it operates. Prior to attainting the new form of lodging license, the network's facilities were classified as rental units and were not subject to lodging-specific criteria including inspections and approvals from Olmsted County Public Health Services, the Rochester-Olmsted Planning Department, and the Rochester Fire Department.

Jodie Hook, Serenity House Network's president and a former bone marrow transplant nurse, says her organization is delighted to be a pioneer in attaining medical lodging licensure and to have her facilities officially zoned as "medical stay dwelling units." Hook worked with the Rochester Convention & Visitors Bureau, Senator Carla Nelson, Representative Nels Pierson, and County and City officials to enact a legislative change to the Minnesota lodging statute and local zoning requirements in 2015. The change expanded the definition of lodging establishments to include properties that are located within 10 miles of a hospital and provide lodging accommodations exclusively to patients, their families, and caregivers while the patient is receiving or waiting to receive healthcare.

Hook says the new form of licensure will help medical visitors who want to stay in a home-like environment find lodging that is suitable for their needs. Serenity's houses and apartments have served more than 900 patients, many of whom have undergone transplants or are receiving treatment for cancer, and their families in the past eight years. Some of these families contacted Serenity after initially staying in rental units that were dirty or lacked heat and water. "This should not happen to any patient," Hook says. "With the emphasis on Rochester becoming a Destination Medical Center, patient lodging should be trustworthy, clean, and safe. Property owners who are willing to go to the extra work, expense, and accountability to obtain and maintain a medical lodging license will help assure patients that what they are renting will meet their needs."

According to Olmsted County officials, some of the criteria for attaining a medical lodging license include:

1. Meeting the requirements of Minnesota laws and rules pertaining to lodging establishments as administered locally by Olmsted County Public Health Services. This includes meeting the construction, maintenance, and operational standards outlined in the Minnesota Lodging code (Minnesota Rules, Chapter 4625).

2. Meeting zoning requirements as determined by the Rochester-Olmsted Planning Department.

3. Providing fire protection measures in accordance with the requirements of the state fire marshal.

Brad Jones, executive director of the RCVB, believes that the medical lodging licenses currently being issued to the Serenity House Network are only the beginning, and that other properties will follow suit. "This licensure is positive for both patients and lodging establishments. We encourage properties that cater exclusively to patients, their families, and caregivers to apply for this license," Jones says.

For more information on how to obtain a medical lodging license in Olmsted County, visit or contact Olmsted County Public Health Services at 507-328-7500.

The Rochester Convention & Visitors Bureau is the official marketing agency for the city of Rochester, responsible for destination sales and marketing efforts. The RCVB works to encourage conventions, meetings, sporting events and business travel to Rochester and provides travel-planning support for the patients of Mayo Clinic. The Convention & Visitors Bureau offers comprehensive information about lodging, dining, special events, activities and local attractions. For more information,, @rahrahrochester on Twitter, VisitRochesterMN on Facebook.