"What you really have is a hospital without beds, when you start to think about it," Bob Gilbert, president of MedStar Ambulatory Services, said as he walked around MedStar Health's newest – and largest – free-standing ambulatory care center Tuesday morning.

The 100,000 square-foot, three-story building at the intersection of Route 924 and Plumtree Road in the Bel Air South area is set to open next month, providing outpatient services such as a cancer center, sports medicine and orthopedics, rehabilitation, primary care, urgent care, women's health, cardiology, neurology, bariatric surgery, medical imaging, gastroenterology, endocrinology and vascular surgery.

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MedStar will host a community grand opening for what it calls the MedStar Bel Air Medical Campus on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The new facility will open to patients on April 12.

The 16-acre site is across Route 924 from a 35-acre site where Walmart had planned to build a 186,000 square-foot store. That proposed store drew major opposition from the surrounding community, and Walmart officials announced in November they had abandoned the project.

MedStar announced its plans to build the new outpatient medical center in 2012, while the Walmart controversy was raging, but the MedStar project attracted much less concern from the community.

"We tried to accommodate, as best we could, all the concerns that were raised by the community," Gilbert said.

He said the Bel Air South campus brings all services MedStar had been offering throughout Harford under one roof, where about 30 physicians can practice at one time.

"It's that whole model of one-stop shopping of health care for the community," Gilbert said.

Harford County employees

About 100 people are slated to work on the campus, including many Harford County residents. The facility can handle at least 365 patients a day, according to Gilbert.

The Columbia-based MedStar Health operates 10 hospitals and more than 150 medical centers in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia. The company has about 30,000 employees, 10 percent who live in Harford County, Gilbert said.

Construction workers were putting the final touches on the interior and exterior of the building Tuesday, and employees were starting to get settled into their various spaces, such as a rehab gymnasium, an imaging center with an MRI suite on one side, a CT scan suite on the other and a communal break room.

Gilbert stressed the campus is set up to break down walls between the various health disciplines to ensure greater coordination of patient care, and to break down walls among different professions.

To that end, he noted, there is only one staff break room.

"This is really the community room for the associates," Gilbert said, comparing it to a conference area near the main entrance on the first floor designed to host community meetings and events.

He said the on-campus workforce, which is drawn from separate facilities and separate medical fields is "sort of that blended family," and the single break room is a way for everyone to socialize and compare notes.

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"We're trying to make sure that they feel like a part of the MedStar team," Gilbert said.

Two employees, both Harford residents, were in the break room Tuesday.

Linda Hawes, of the Tudor Manor community east of Bel Air, is the nursing manager of operations. A registered nurse, Hawes has worked for MedStar for 32 and a half years and previously was manager of cardiology services at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore.

"We want to make sure quality care is brought to the community," Hawes said. "I'm excited that we're able to give that opportunity to Harford County."

Stephanie Conwell, of Bel Air, is a three-year employee of MedStar, who has worked for MedStar Franklin Square Hospital in Baltimore County, and the MedStar PromptCare urgent care center in the Federal Hill section of Baltimore.

She is supervisor of administrative services for the new Bel Air campus, where she handles the call center, front desk and quality control as well as clinical services such as drawing blood, taking patients' vitals and assisting with physical exams.

"I love the short commute," Conwell said. "I love the people I work with already."

The building is designed to bring in natural light and give patients views of the campus and nearby wooded areas.

"I have plans for a healing garden out there [behind the building] as soon as our development folks can get it done," Gilbert said while leading a tour through the chemotherapy infusion section of the cancer center.

To learn more about the MedStar Health Bel Air Medical Campus, visit www.medstarhealth.org/bel-air.

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