HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — Officials estimate nearly 7,000 people went through the doors of the new Meritus Medical Center as part of an open house Sunday to show the public the five-level, $294 million facility that is scheduled to begin operations Dec. 11.
People crowded into hallways and went on tours that took as long as 30 minutes to complete.
Guests were able to tour areas that will be restricted when the medical center opens, like operating areas, and hospital officials said they were surprised by the turnout.
“We actually had people waiting outside the doors before the event began this morning,” said Nicole M. Jovel, public relations coordinator for the facility.
The president and CEO of Washington County Health System said he thinks people are curious about the new medical center because it’s “been talked about for eight years.”
“It’s finally here,” James P. Hamill said after the open house and a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the main lobby of the new facility off Robinwood Drive.
The open house was held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Medical center staff were stationed throughout the crowds, talking on headsets and directing people where to go for tours.
“Welcome to Meritus Medical Center, everybody,” Kyle Haught, a corporate communications worker for the facility, told a surge of visitors inside the front door Sunday afternoon.
People slowly made their way through hallways as they passed pre-operating areas and other patient facilities. They were able to see state-of-the art equipment in operating rooms and new decor inside the facility that was accentuated with Ansel Adams prints.
On Saturday, nearly 4,000 people went through the medical center in an event that was set aside for hospital employees and workers who built the facility, said Mary Rizk, director of corporate communications for the facility.
Hospital employees and the workers were able to bring along family members to see the medical center, officials said.
The facility on Saturday also saw the first helicopter landing at its aircraft landing pad and there was a dedication for the pad, Jovel said.
The new medical center was getting high marks as people were going through the facility near the end of the open house.
“From where we came from to what we’re going to is just phenomenal,” said Joyce Crouse, who was touring the medical center with her husband Dick. Joyce Crouse has been working for Washington County Hospital for 53 years, and the purchasing worker participated in the ribbon cutting.
“It’s beautiful. It’s confusing, but I think that may be good,” said Hagerstown resident Barbara Wagner, who was touring the facility with her mother.
Wagner said she thinks the confusing element of the hospital is good because it will keep people out of areas they are not supposed to be in.
Larry Summers, who was visiting the medical center with his wife Thelma, called the facility “beautiful. It’s something that’s been needed for a long time,” Summers said.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Hamill recognized dignitaries in the audience who supported the new medical center.
“We see the future, and we think we got it right,” Hamill said.
Hamill was praised for his work to guide the project through its challenges. At one time, there was a court battle to keep it from being built in the Robinwood Drive area.