Parkland Memorial Hospital promises to be 'patient-centered' with new design
07:32 AM CDT on Thursday, October 28, 2010
By SHERRY JACOBSON / The Dallas Morning News
Two years ago, Frank Marino was rushed by ambulance to Parkland Memorial Hospital after suffering a major stroke.
But his wife was almost as traumatized by the experience.
After driving to Dallas County's public hospital, the Carrollton woman couldn't find the entrance to the emergency room or figure out how to reach her husband once she got inside.
"It was a maze of people," Karen Marino recalled Wednesday. "I had to go to a window and get a pass to get to my husband and then go through a metal detector.
"It's not your average emergency room."
Parkland, which was built in 1954 as Dallas' charity hospital, has been reconfigured and remodeled extensively over the past 56 years. But it's no longer a user-friendly place – particularly for first-time visitors.
The design of the new Parkland, which will be unveiled today, promises to create a "patient-centered" facility that will minimize confusion for visitors and promote healing for patients.
"The new Parkland will be a safe, welcoming, patient-centered, healing environment that will serve as a sustainable resource for Dallas County," said Walter B. Jones Jr., senior vice president of facilities planning and development.
The new $1.27 billion hospital, which will be constructed across Harry Hines Boulevard from the current facility, will be completed in 2014.
A ground-breaking ceremony will be staged this afternoon by hospital officials, benefactors, city and county leaders and other well-wishers.
Among them will be the Marinos, who served on a design advisory committee of patients and families.
"After the great care I got at Parkland, it was the least we could do," said Frank Marino, a retired military officer.
The committee urged the designers to consider how overwhelming a large public hospital can seem, especially for patients who already are feeling a great deal of stress.
The committee suggested that, first and foremost, Parkland's new ER needed to be at the front, with adequate signs to direct fretful visitors.
"They were very accommodating," Marino said. "As a result, we're going to have one of the best hospitals in the country."
The 2.5-million-square-foot campus will feature a 17-story main hospital building with 862 patient rooms for adults and a 96-bed neonatal intensive-care unit.
Visitors and patients will enter the hospital through a three-story lobby and travel on "obvious paths" to public areas of the hospital, including the emergency room, cafeteria, gift shop and chapel, said Jones, who also is an architect.
"With 27 languages spoken at Parkland, there can't be a lot of signage," he said.
At the center of the new campus will be a "wellness park," a 2-acre island of trees and plants that can be accessed only by entering through the hospital by patients, staff and visitors.
"We're putting the park back in Parkland," said Dr. Ron Anderson, the hospital's president and chief executive officer.
"There's no place in the current hospital where you can go to meditate and pray, which is very important to people when they are in crisis."
Each patient floor will accommodate two 36-bed units, built end to end with nursing alcoves tucked along the 300-foot-long hallways.
All patient rooms will be identical in layout and equipment, allowing a room's function to change from medical to surgical to intensive care.
"We can adjust them to the level of care we might need to provide in the future," Jones said.
"And we've made sure there are very nice views in each room to allow the patient to connect with nature, which is shown to aid healing."
Unlike the semi-private rooms in the current hospital, each patient will have a single room that allows for greater privacy, especially during doctor visits.
"It's more comfortable for the patients when they are free to discuss their conditions while helping the clinical staff enhance their care and improve the outcomes," Jones said.
Families also can be better accommodated in private patient rooms with enough space for comfortable chairs and a small sofa that can open into a bed, allowing overnight stays.
Jones said family members need to become part of the care team at Parkland, essentially keeping an eye on the patient when the staff is not nearby.
The new hospital may even be quieter than current conditions by relegating staff movement to separate corridors and elevators, "just like they do at Disney World," Jones said.
"And you won't see supply carts sitting in the hallways like you do now."
Plans call for connecting Parkland to two nearby hospitals – UT Southwestern Medical Center and Children's Medical Center Dallas – by two walking bridges.
But Parkland and the other hospitals may also consider some kind of "people mover" as a more efficient means of transportation within Dallas' growing hospital district.
"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." -- Galileo