By Shawn Williams
Last Friday was the grand opening of the Dallas Convention Center Hotel. The event has been highly anticipated over the last few years and highly publicized. Yours truly was one of the first to herald the benefit of such a public endeavor.
But there has been hardly a peep about Dallas County’s billion dollar hospital scheduled to open it’s doors in 2014. In 2008, Dallas County voters approved a bond program to fund $747 million of the $1.27 billion needed to construct the new Parkland. And yet three years later you would never know the project -a total campus replacement- is 15% complete and on schedule to start serving patients three years from now.
On the opposite side of Harry Hines from its current home, the new Parkland is rising from the ground and signs of progress are all around. Mixed use developments and new apartment buildings dot corners that were once eyesores. Construction on a new parking garage is almost complete and the shell of a new tower currently stands 11 stories high.
There will be many bells and whistles with the new buildings, but one vital aspect of the project that should not be overlooked is its proximity to DART’s Green Line. The train will run right through the middle of campus and the Southwestern Medical District/Parkland Station which opened nearly a year ago will allow for a smooth commute for patients and employees alike.
Walter Jones, Senior Vice President of Facilities for Parkland lead the discussion about the new hospital. Before joining Parkland in 2003, he led a major renovation and expansion of Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.
“We’ve designed a hospital of the future,” Jones said. The slides he used to present the new Parkland showed a shiny building full of life verses the cold, drab nature of the current structure. He also presented a video that provided a virtual fly over view of the project.
Jones compared the new building in size and scope to the Bank of America Tower in downtown Dallas or Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. The tallest tower on the campus will be 17 stories, a far cry from the Parkland’s humble beginnings more that one hundred years ago.
The new Parkland facility will be the 3rd version of the county hospital and project architects refer to it as Parkland 3.0. The original Parkland opened on what was formerly park land at the corner of Oaklawn and Maple in 1894. The 1.1 version came in the form of a brick building built on the same site in 1913 which replaced the original wooden structure. Dallas County residents were served there until 1953.
Parkland 2.0 came online in 1954 at the current Harry Hines location and received a facelift in the mid 1980′s. In 1957 Parkland performed the city’s first open heart surgery and performed the state’s first successful kidney transplant in 1964. Parkland was certified as the first Level I trauma center in Texas in 1983.
Bigger and Better
The new Parkland Hospital will be a 1.9 million square foot acute care hospital. It will have 862 adult bets and 108 emergency treatment rooms. The hospital will also have 24 operating rooms.
Patients will get the added benefit of private rooms in the new facility. Currently 70% of the rooms at Parkland are semi-private and 75% have no private shower. The average room today is about 140 square feet. In Parkland 3.0, the average patient room will be 260 square feet and all of the rooms will be private and have showers.
Parkland CEO Ron Anderson said remodeling the 1950′s facility was an option, but would have been cost prohibited. $120 million was needed to bring the building up to medical code and that would have caused a loss of 40% capacity. Anderson feels the old building could still have a future use, possibly as a psychiatric hospital, but no decisions have been made at this point.
While Parkland has received more than its fair share of bad press in recent months, many Dallas residents have positive memories of the hospital. Some folks were born there or have a family member whose life was saved by a Parkland physician. For me, when someone close was in need of urgent care during a traumatic situation, I was relieved to know they had been rushed to Parkland.
Parkland generally gets high marks for its ability to operate in crisis situations. But Dr. Anderson hopes the new facility will help shape a new image for the county hospital. “We want to be the hospital of choice,” says Anderson, “not the hospital of last resort.”