Dennis Clemons enters Parkland Memorial Hospital’s main entrance using an aging cane and clutching a tattered binder under his arm. The binder contains medical records dating back to the 1950’s. Clemons is a regular at Dallas’ premier public hospital.
“I come here for everything, whatever ails me, because I don’t have any money,” said Clemons, 70, who moved to Dallas from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. “I live here. They should name a wing after me.”
Parkland hospital, a beacon of hope for patients like Clemons, will soon have a new building with better service and more individualized care. The old building, where Clemons waits for a doctor today, will be used for storage, and may someday even be torn down.
In 2008, Dallas County voters overwhelmingly voted to support the construction of a new hospital. The new 1.9 million-square-foot acute care hospital will house 862 private adult beds, 108 emergency treatment rooms, 96 neonatal intensive care unit beds, and 24 operating rooms. Roughly 30,000 people are expected to pass through its doors each day and with Dallas County’s population expected to double by 2025, the a new facility was desperately needed, say hospital and city officials.
“The primary focus was changing the patient environment,” said Walter Jones, senior vice president of facilities planning and development. “We are using the principles of evidence-based design to create patient focused healing. We are connecting the environment of care with the actual care that’s given. ”
In the radiology department, Charlene Collins patiently reads while she waits for her brother-in-law to finish his CT scan. Coming a few times a week for the past three weeks, Collins is used to the routine.
“We had no choice but to bring him here because of his insurance situation. No one else would do the treatment,” said Collins glancing up from her Kindle. “The level of care provided here is outstanding. The hospital needs to be bigger and it is already monstrous.”
Doctors and nurses in scrubs dart from room to room, clamoring children are chided by mothers, and family members eagerly await news of their loved ones. Parkland hospital first opened its wooden doors to the public in 1894 and has shared some of America’s iconic moments in history. One moment in particular has plagued Dallas for decades: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Dr. Robert C. Jones was Chief Resident Surgeon at Parkland and provided treatment to President Kennedy after he arrived in Trauma Room One and recounts the events with ease. He stares off in the distance as if transported back in time. His hands do the talking, moving swiftly as he would if he were that young surgeon in 1963.
“I couldn’t get gloves so I bear handedly cut skin and got the IV going in less than a minute. When we hooked up the EKG machine, it was just a straight line. He had no heart activity at all,” said Jones somberly.
Jones agrees that a small part of Dallas history will be lost with the construction of the new building.
“I would have liked to have it kept there as a sort of monument for that piece of history,” he said.
Revisiting Trauma Room One today, individuals would only find a plaque commemorating the historic site. Parkland has changed for the better over the years, say officials, and currently provides more than 1,600 patients with primary care and fills approximately 15,000 prescriptions daily.
But the busy county hospital is not without its problems. The physicians and caregivers at Parkland are practicing medicine in a hospital built over 50 years ago, and the hospital has been operating at full capacity for years. In 2011, Parkland came under scrutiny about the complications it had with patient care. The failures outlined in a series of stories by the Dallas Morning News ultimately forced the hospital to devise a plan to remedy the problems at a cost of $75 million to taxpayers. Recently, Parkland passed a key government survey that allowed the hospital to keep receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding.
Construction of the new Parkland Hospital is currently the largest healthcare undertaking in the U.S. The estimated $1.3 billion budget on the project is intended to make Parkland a more flexible healthcare facility. The high efficiency, patient-centered hospital will be expected to operate for the next 50 years.
“I think we have done something really exciting,” said Walter Jones, senior vice president of facilities planning and development. “We have done something that a lot of different hospitals have done only one or two of but we incorporated those all into one building.”