Ennis was buzzing with activity this past weekend as Ennis Regional Medical Center held a grand opening ceremony to unveil the new facility to the public.

The ceremony began with local Boy Scout troops raising the flag at the hospital for the first time in a symbolic gesture that the facility was ready for the community to use.

Following the flag raising, ERMC’s chief executive officer, Dan McLean welcomed the group of about 1,200 people for coming and thanked them for their faith to see the project through to completion.

McLean also introduced Ellis County resident and award winning country music artist Janie Fricke who led the crowd in a rousing rendition of America the Beautiful.

Following the anthem Robert Klein, united division president of Lifepoint Hospitals and Bill Gracey, chief operations officer of Lifepoint Hospitals, spoke of their excitement to be part of such a wonderful project.

Ennis City Manager Steve Howerton, who according to McLean was very integral in seeing the hospital project through to completion, addressed the crowd and reminded everyone of how far the community had come in regards to local medical services.

“There was a period of time about seven years ago that was a dark moment in history for the community when we had no local medical services and the hospital closed. The thought of a new hospital seemed like a dream and today we are here to celebrate the realization of that dream,” he said.

Howerton then introduced Ennis Mayor Russell Thomas who thanked the city commissioners for their leadership and willingness to work diligently on the project, the Lifepoint organization for their partnership with the city and the voters for making the project happen.

“This hospital really belongs to you - the voters, for having the faith in the medical community and the desire to see great things happen. This is your new facility and I hope you are very proud every time you come here,” he said.

Thomas also paused in his remarks to answer his cell phone and pass along the best wishes of his mother who underwent hip replacement surgery at the hospital. He ended the conversation and jokingly apologized to the crowd saying,

“I don’t know about you but when your Mama calls, you answer.”

Thomas also acknowledged that while the city, hospital administration and Lifepoint gathered the necessary components to put the project together, there was a higher power that has made the project successful.

The ceremony continued with State Representative Jim Pitts saying that the new ERMC facility was ‘the culmination of the Texas can do spirit.’ Adding that projects like the new hospital are an example of what can happen when people get together for the good of their community.

Joe Barton, 6th District Congressman echoed that sentiment and reminded the crowd that they were very fortunate to receive care at a facility that had three things that make stand out.

“You all should be very proud to receive care in a facility that has three components that have and will continue to allow it to stand out and be recognized: the best staff, the best equipment and a hospital administration that cares about individuals,” Barton said.

The ceremony continued with remarks from Dr. Basem Jassin, chief of staff at ERMC and hospital board of trustees chairman, Gary Witherspoon who told the crowd the dream doesn’t end with the opening of the hospital but that the ERMC be recognized as giving the best care in Texas.

Rev. Darrell Nelson closed the ceremony with a blessing of the facility, hospital staff, administration and patients saying that many prayers had been prayed to see the hospital open and requested the community to keep the facility, staff and administration in their prayers as they transition from the old facility to the new.

The crowd was then able to participate in many activities including tours of the facility, refreshments and activities for the kids.

Lifeteam Air Evac was also on hand to answer questions about the dedicated helicopter service that will be staged at the new facility.

Bill Lewis, former mayor of Ennis and chairman of the committee responsible for campaigning and gathering voter support for the bond to build the hospital, is amazed at how quickly things have come to pass.

“It is amazing how far we’ve come, it was only two years ago that we were worried about whether the bond would pass but it did with the largest margin of any bond in the city’s history. We campaigned hard for this new facility, in the last 30 days prior to the vote I sent out a piece of mail every three days to residents. Some people told me I could stop mailing things to them, but I just told them to consider the added mail love letters. We believed in this project from the start and this will mean a great deal to the people of Ennis,” Lewis said.

The emergency room at the old facility will close July 21 at 7 a.m. with the ER opening simultaneously at the new facility.

The official opening of the new hospital will be July 23.

E-mail Candie at candie.adams@ennisjournal.com