Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins* wrote a piece for the Dallas Morning News, published November 25, 2012, describing the qualities he hopes the search committee will find in a new leader for Dallas County’s massive medical care institution, Parkland Hospital: “Parkland needs an inspiring servant leader.”
For more than a decade the hospital has been hammered by a massive load of charity cases, including tens of thousands of people forced to used the emergency room for primary care because they cannot get into the health care system in other ways. Such crowds, such budget pressures, such pressures on staff, force mistakes. Parkland has not been immune.
Parkland emergency room wait times for non-critical care are legendary. I’ve had students miss most of a week waiting for care there. At the same time, I’ve had students return to class in what I considered record time after being patched up from problematic baby deliveries, auto accidents, and gunshot wounds.
Problems in billing and record keeping for Medicaid and Medicare forced the resignation of a long-time hospital director. Much of the past two years have been crisis mode for the hospital, laboring frantically not to lose its federal funding (Dallas County underfunds the hospital as a matter of tax-restraint policy).
Friends tell me morale is not great.
I stumbled into this letter at a great site for historical items, Letter of Note. In times of crisis, those appointed or anointed to lead may do several things to rally workers to do their best, to carry an institution through the tough times.
I wager this letter, in 1963, did more to build Parkland Hospital as a quality institution than all the audits, investigations, and exhortations to abide by federal policy and stop losing money, in the past decade. What do you think?
November 27, 1963, was less than a week after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who died in a Parkland operating room, the wounding of Texas Gov. John Connally, who was operated on in another operating room, and the shooting of presumed assassin Lee H. Oswald, who also got care at Parkland at his death.
Transcript, from the Dallas Observer, via Wired, via Letters of Note:
Transcript [links added here]
DALLAS COUNTY HOSPITAL DISTRICT
November 27, 1963
To: All Employees
At 12:38 p.m., Friday, November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy and Texas’ Governor John Connally were brought to the Emergency Room of Parkland Memorial Hospital after being struck down by the bullets of an assassin.
At 1:07 p.m., Sunday, November 24, 1963, Lee. H. Oswald, accused assassin of the late president, died in an operating room of Parkland Memorial Hospital after being shot by a bystander in the basement of Dallas’ City Hall. In the intervening 48 hours and 31 minutes Parkland Memorial Hospital had:
1. Become the temporary seat of the government of the United States.
2. Become the temporary seat of the government of the State of Texas.
3. Become the site of the death of the 35th President.
4. Become the site of the ascendency of the 36th President.
5. Become site of the death of President Kennedy’s accused assassin.
6. Twice become the center of the attention of the world.
7. Continued to function at close to normal pace as a large charity hospital.
What is it that enables an institution to take in stride such a series of history jolting events? Spirit? Dedication? Preparedness? Certainly, all of these are important, but the underlying factor is people. People whose education and training is sound. People whose judgement is calm and perceptive. People whose actions are deliberate and definitive. Our pride is not that we were swept up by the whirlwind of tragic history, but that when we were, we were not found wanting.
C. J. Price
The people of Parkland Hospital in 2012 will bring it through the current, slower series of jolting events, I predict.
When that happens, will the administrator think to thank them?
- “Parkland Hospital narrows CEO search to four,” Bill Hethcock, Dallas Business Journal, November 5, 2012
- Dallas honors assassin’s second victim, policeman J. D. Tippit (timpanogos.wordpress.com)
- On This Day In 1963, President Kennedy Laid To Rest at Arlington (rememberinghistory.wordpress.com)
- Commemoration Plans For JFK 50th Underway As 49th Year Marked (dfw.cbslocal.com)
- Arlington college students’ old essays cast light on reaction to JFK’s assassination (star-telegram.com)
* In Texas, the lead commissioner in the county commissions is called “judge.” To distinguish between this executive branch judge and court judges, judges of courts are usually identified by the court in which they preside. Clay Jenkins is the leader of the Dallas County Commission.