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In With The New, Out With The Old At Parkland Hospital?

BJ Austin
The main entrance to Parkland Memorial Hospital, built in 1954 and expanded in the mid-1960s. It's now home to clinics and the hospital pharmacy and laundry. Patients, most doctors and medical staff now reside in the New Parkland across the street.

It’s going to cost more each year to operate the new Parkland Hospital in Dallas. The bigger, $1.3 billion high-tech hospital opened last week after five years of construction.  Now, what happens to the "old" Parkland across the street?  Its days may be numbered.

There’s still plenty of activity in the old Parkland. Specialty clinics, labs, the hospital pharmacy, the gigantic laundry and administrative offices did not make the move to the new campus, including Parkland CEO Dr. Fred Cerise.

He says no decision’s been made yet about which operations will move to across the street when a clinic and medical services building is finished in another year.

“We’ll either decide to stay in some of the clinical space where we are now, in the newer buildings that have more life left to them.  And then dispose of the older buildings," Dr. Cerise said. "We anticipate selling most if not all of the property on this side of Harry Hines.”

That sale would likely include the walls and halls of the Parkland of 1963, when the assassination of President John F. Kennedy thrust the Dallas public hospital into the international spotlight.

Parkland’s display to honor JFK’s memory, including the Presidential Seal and a bronze bust of President Kennedy by sculptor Felix de Weldon has already been moved to the new building, with more to come.

“The ER façade we will move: Parkland Emergency -- that will move to the new site. But the historic pieces of Parkland, that’s going to be a conversation we’re going to have to have,” Dr. Cerise said.

And he says there will plenty of time for careful discussion.

“We’re a public entity and so we’ll have to go through a public process to sell the property,” Dr. Cerise said.

At the new Parkland, even though the hospital has doubled in size, Dr. Cerise anticipates a modest 2-3 percent growth in hospital activity: emergencies, patient admissions and visitors. It'll cost more to run, though. 

“Mostly because of just the size of it, from about a million square feet to two million square feet," Dr. Cerise said. "And our operating budget will increase about 5 or 6 percent.  That’s a combination of inflation and new staffing models."

Parkland has hired about 300 new people: more cleaners, IT technicians to wrangle all the new technology, hospital police, and nurses to staff the ER, which is five times larger than the old one.

In 2008, voters approved a slight tax hike for New Parkland operating expenses, as well as funds for construction. Officials expect property values in Dallas County to go up next year. That would mean higher tax bills for homeowners and more money in Parkland’s purse.

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.