The emergency, urgent-care, and labor and delivery departments at the new Parkland Memorial Hospital opened in Dallas at 6 a.m. Thursday. A half-hour later, the three-day process began to move some 650 patients from the old hospital, built in 1954, over to the new $1.3 billion, 2.5 million-square-foot facility.
Parkland, which serves as the area's main safety net and teaching hospital, experienced its first birth at 9:40 a.m. It was a boy delivered via C-section.
Mike Malaise, Parkland senior vice president of communications and external relations for Parkland Health & Hospital System, said the process actually began in 2008, when area voters approved a $747 million borrowing plan to build a new hospital by an 82-18 margin. Construction began on the new hospital Oct. 28, 2010.
“It's had overwhelming public support, starting with the vote and culminating with the opening,” Malaise said.
Planning and training for the move has taken more than a year, Malaise said. The preparation has included using actors as stand-ins for patients in “day-in-the-life scenarios” as the move team prepared for anything that could go wrong.
But, when the move is finished on Saturday, Malaise said, there will be little opportunity to reflect on the magnitude of the task they just completed.
“We're going to be full on day one,” he said. “We won't have time to sit around and look down the mountain.”
Along with the patients, Parkland is bringing along problems both old and new.
Parkland Health & Hospital System remains in the middle of a corporate integrity agreement stemming from a 2010 lawsuit alleging that it submitted improper claims to Medicare and Medicaid. In May 2013, it reached a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department and Texas' Medicaid Fraud Unit. Parkland did not admit any liability but agreed to pay $1.42 million. It also entered into the corporate integrity agreement, which includes requirements related to ethics, clinical quality and patient safety. It also made Parkland subject to monitoring by a billing review organization.
Earlier, Parkland was subject to a systems improvement agreement with the CMS that required bringing in independent consultants to analyze its operations and implementing quality and patient-safety upgrades.
“We're taking things from the system-improvement agreement and making sure they continue,” Malaise said. “We're about halfway through the five-year corporate integrity agreement and we just have to keep being vigilant.”
Parkland also recently filed a suit seeking $1 million in damages against four construction companies that worked on its central utility plant claiming faulty work caused delays and added expenses.
The plant is operational, Malaise said. The lawsuit involves past problems that led to instances of insufficient power that required using generators and other workarounds.
The new hospital received LEED gold certification in June as part of the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. More than 660 trees were planted on the hospital grounds, including 340 canopy trees and 10 “large specimen” trees—one a 50-year-old oak. Water usage is expected to drop 60% and the building's efficient design is expected to allow Parkland to pay 6.8% less on utility bills—even though the building is much larger than the one it's replacing.
Malaise said no decision has been made about what to do with the old hospital, most of which was built in 1954. On Nov. 22, 1963, Parkland was thrust into the international spotlight when President John F. Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally were taken to its emergency room after being shot by Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald later died there after being shot himself.
The emergency room unit where Kennedy was pronounced dead became part of a radiology waiting room. To mark the location, there was a plaque on the wall stating “Original Site/Trauma 1/November 22, 1963.”
The old hospital's historical significance continued to the end. It played an important role in local implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The hospital had 441 certified application counselors assisting 14,000 people around Dallas County during open enrollment between Oct. 1, 2013, and March 31, 2014. In the final two weeks, Parkland's business office stayed open late and on weekends and helped more than 2,000 people gain health insurance coverage. This included 317 people on the last day.
Outpatient clinics will still be run out of the old hospital for the time being. But those operations will eventually move over to the new facility.
The new outpatient facilities will include the Ron J. Anderson Clinic set to open in 2017. Anderson, who died last year, served as CEO of Parkland Health & Hospital System for almost 30 years before taking responsibility for the hospital's patient safety and financial lapses and resigning in 2011.
He made Modern Healthcare's 50 Most Influential Physician Executives and Leaders list five times, and he topped the inaugural list in 2005.
There is a statue of him in the lobby of the new hospital paid for by an anonymous donor.
“He's a huge part of our history and the history of healthcare in Texas and defending the right of indigent patients to have access to healthcare,” Malaise said. “Regardless of the circumstances of his exit from Parkland, he's still someone we're very proud of.”