New Parkland designed to eliminate security, safety problems

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on November 4, 2013 at 6:28 PM

DALLAS -- In December, a man accused of murdering a Carrollton teenager escaped from a deputy at Parkland Hospital, sparking a city-wide manhunt.

Security at Parkland, which serves the county jail, is a challenge. Inmates currently rub elbows with the general patient population, using the same services, entrances, and exits.

All of that will change at the new hospital.

A four-vehicle sally port is just for prison transfers. There is also a ten-room, cinder-block wing that will serve as a jail within the hospital. Each room has high-security locks and 1,000 lb. doors on every room.

"You know what happens at Parkland -- you see people running around in jumpsuits,” said Kathy Harper, Parkland’s vice president for clinical coordination. “Everything will be contained in this unit. The only time they will be transported is when they need surgery or to deliver a baby or when they need ICU. We cannot do ICU here."

Parkland Hospital officials want to make sure that patient safety problems that led to a two-year investigation are behind them. The new $1.2 billion facility being built across the street is designed to eliminate some of the biggest concerns.

The current Parkland's psychiatric unit has been another source of angst and investigation after allegations of human rights violations and unexplained deaths. Hospital officials declined to let News 8 videotape that area.

"You know, right now, they're in one small room,” Harper said. “In this facility, we have private treatment rooms. We have almost like a day room."

In the new facility, the day room, and 20 private rooms, will be constantly monitored. Wall-to-wall windows will allow staff to observe whatever is happening in the psych unit.

Parkland officials say the psychiatry area and others have been redesigned several times to optimize patient safety and security and to meet federal guidelines.

The new-and-improved Parkland is on schedule to open in 2015.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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