When Children's Hospital is mentioned, Dr. Robert H. Parrott comes to mind.
Dr. Parrott is one of the dedicated people who have made the hospital one of the nation's finest pediatric facilities. He has been the director of Children's for 19 busy years.
Most of Dr. Parrtt's waking hours are spent thinking about children and their medical problems. His concern goes well beyond medicine and cures.
For example, in 1971 he thought it necessary to inaugurate a program designed "to get outside the hospital's walls" in an active search for indigent children who need help but aren't getting it.
Another Parrott idea was the development of "some kind of political concern for children." The helpless are always in need of a champion, but since children don't vote, no one hears them.
Well, almost no one. Dr. Parrott is one who hears.
I asked him why it is necessary to have a separate hospital that specializes in child care. He replied, "Because children are individuals and their problems are very specific. They need a different and specialized kind of care."
He said that not every town needs a pediatric hospital, but added that most major metropolitan areas would be better off if they had one. He said, "The thing that I think is good about an area as big as this is that you can get enough people at every level to concentrate on liking to work with children, and on understanding their emotional as well as physical needs."
I asked him whether any special problems arise from the fact that Children's is a teaching hospital. In my ignorance, I had assumed that intrusions by medical students would be unsettling to young patients. Dr. Parrott quickly dispelled that notion.
"Internists are afraid of children," he said. He explained that kids, like wild animals, can sense moods. They're much better at it than adults. In the presence of children, many medical students seem to learn as much about themselves as they do about medicine.
And the children benefit, too. Medical students ask lots of questions and often hit upon new methods of treatment and new techniques as they probe for information.
I asked him whether there are special problems that relate to the emotional needs of children. Dr. Parrott refered to a film recently produced by Children's Hospital. It was titled, "At Least Do No Harm." Its message was: "Get in contact with the child - be aware that the child is an individual and needs personal attention."
Dr. Parrott said, "What we want to teach is that understanding the needs of children is a greater problem than understanding their biochemistry."
Another aspect of the work being done at Children's Hospital involves social as well as medical research. Part of this is "broadening the meaning of child care" to try and make it include improving children's lives. "A child is not healthy if he has rats running accross his bed." The social research delves into problems that are common to big cities -- problems such as auto accidents and lead poisoning from house paint.
"Children's Hospital National Medical Center." I wondered aloud what significance the word "national" had in that title. The hospitals name was changed from Children's Hospital of Washington, D.C., several years ago, and Dr. Parrott told me that the new name not only reflects the hospital's location in the nation's capital, but also the availability of health care services to anyone who comes here for treatment. The word "national" also refers to the resarch being done at Children's Hospital. "Our research and education programs have a national effect, Dr. Parrott pointed out.
None of the money donated by District Liners is used for research. All of it is used to take care of the annual operating deficit incurred in providing health care for children whose parents can't pay, or can't pay the entire bill. Research produces new knowledge that is of great benefit to the hospital's patients, of course, but research is funded by grants from other sources.
Incidentally, I attended the annual board meeting at Children's Hospital on Monday. If you're interested in the latest financial information from the hospital, I can give you some figures.
Operating revenues for last year were just over $53 million. This included $1,699,446 that was donated during the annual fund drive. "Free care" and collection losses were $4,841,000 -- about three times the amount collected in the fund drive. Small wonder that the built-in deficit remains a constant menace.
How wonderful it would be if we could free the minds of the doctors of their money problems and permit them to concentrate completely on making sick children well again.
Let's get to work on this year's deficit and see if we can chop it down to size.