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Sneak Peek At The New Parkland Hospital

BJ Austin

A year from now, the nation’s biggest hospital construction project will be finished.  As the new, 17-story Parkland Hospital takes shape, top contractors have found themselves with additional duties: conducting hard-hat tours for a preview.

                 New Parkland Numbers

  • The outside, or skin is 8 acres of glass.
  • 6,000 plumbing fixtures
  • 7,000 doors
  • 32,430 light fixtures
  • 43 million pounds of rebar

Contractors and craftsmen have put in four million man-hours so far creating the replacement for the 55-year old Parkland building across the street.  The new Parkland is twice as large with a bigger emergency department and more beds.

Project Manager David Graham, leading his third tour of the week, says the new hospital is putting the ‘park’ back in Parkland.

“Out these doors that they’re working on that’s the wellness garden, the park that we’re developing right here,” Graham told the tour group. “It’s a little over an acre of land and it will only be accessible from inside the building.  So, we’re going to take the elevators and go up to the 16th floor.”

On the 16th floor, most rooms are finished, except for furniture, and patients and staff.

“I’m standing at the head of the bed, so the bed would kinda right here in the center of the room. This side of the room is what we call the staff zone,” Graham explained. “There will actually be a charting station on the wall, a computer so that staff can come in and chart. There’s a hand washing sink over on the side.”

Each room is private – no sharing. And there’s a family area with a sofa that unfolds into a queen size bed.

Louis Saksen, Senior Vice President of Construction says all 865 patient rooms are identical for a reason.

“You walk into every room, the patient’s head is on the left.  The sink’s in the same place, the computer’s in the same place,” Saksen said. “So, should we have a big change in patient population, we can move – the nurses don’t have to get reoriented when they go to a different unit.  They’re all exactly the same.”

There’s a lot of natural light. Each room has a window. Some have a view of the downtown skyline; others look toward the one-care park. And some open onto 10 so-called light wells – large rectangular, vertical openings through the 17 floors that feed-in sunlight. And the new Parkland has separate elevators and hallways for laundry carts, pharmaceutical deliveries, and meal carts – all the noisy aspects.  The separate patient-room hallways will be much quieter.

Cliff Boyd says they help make the new facility worth it. He was on the original 1997 committee on whether to build a new Parkland.  He rejects arguments that Parkland should have been renovated instead of built anew.

“We spend almost a year and half to two years with a professional construction company down to the two-by-fours, the nails, the whole attitude to document without any reservation that it would cost more to renovate that than to build this,” Boyd said as he stood in one of the rooms.

After construction’s completed in 2014, it’ll take months to do necessary training and get things ready to move patients in 2015.

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.