WHAT WE'VE REPORTED Two years ago Bayhealth Medical Center announced their plans to open a 24-hour Emergency Department at the Bayhealth Smyrna-Clayton Medical Services campus located on the corner of Carter Road and Wheatley's Pond Road (Route 300).

Bayhealth received approval in September of 2011 for the plans from the Delaware Health Resources Board, who unanimously approved the application. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in May for the expansion.

WHAT'S NEW Bayhealth along with state, county and local representatives came together Monday for the ribbon cutting, dedication and tour of the new facility.

Bayhealth CEO Terry M. Murphy kicked things off at the ribbon cutting by once again stating the need for the facility.

"Today, by cutting this ribbon on this $3.4 million, eight-bed, fully-staffed, 24-hour Emergency Center in Smyrna, we're answering the need expressed by residents, local EMS and state agencies, and physicians," Murphy said.

Last year Smyrna's American Legion Ambulance 64 transported 2,800 patients to Kent General's emergency department, Murphy said. Ambulance 64, which covers a 62-mile radius surrounding Smyrna and Clayton, transported patients at a minimum of 50 minutes round trip. With the new facility, Bayhealth is cutting 12 miles and time off the trip to the closest ER.

In the last 10 years, the communities of Smyrna, Clayton, Middletown and Townsend have experienced significant population growth resulting in heavy demands on local primary and specialty care physicians. Murphy said last year 6,300 people traveled from these areas to Kent General for emergency care.

Smyrna Town Manager Dave Hugg said the new facility will offer better medical care for members of the rapidly growing community.

"This makes it possible to quickly and efficiently receive quality medical care," Hugg said.

Bayhealth Emergency Department Director Pat Fuller shared with the crowd the story of the night her father died after suffering from a silent heart attack. Not only did it take the ambulance 10 minutes to arrive, but also they were 18 miles from the closest emergency room.

"Having emergency care close by would've made a difference," Fuller said.

The new facility is staffed by specialists in emergency medicine.

WHAT'S NEXT The Bayhealth Emergency Department in Smyrna will soon be open to the public. Final preparations for the opening include: final quality and safety inspections of all equipment; staff and EMS personnel facility orientation and training; stocking of final supplies and medications.

Email Jennifer Dailey at jennifer.dailey@doverpost.com.