WENDELL, N.C. (WTVD) -- WakeMed opened its new Wendell Healthplex Tuesday morning, as it expands operations into the eastern part of the county.
"Being immediately adjacent from Wendell, Zebulon, Knightdale and really for our folks in the east as well, it's really a great intervening opportunity to get care closer to where you are," said Carolyn Knaup, WakeMed's Senior Vice President of Strategic Ventures and Ambulatory Operations.
The project has been in the works for more than fifteen years.
"We were awarded the certificate (of need) in 2008, and then the recession hit. And then it took a while for the population and the economy to rebound," said Knaup.
This new 24,000 square foot facility features a 12-bed emergency department that's open 24/7, as well as outpatient imaging services, including x-rays, CT scans, and ultrasound.
"Time is really critical, not only for those folks that will come via their car, but also for our EMS colleagues," said Knaup.
"This is significant. It'll save 15, 20 minutes at a minimum off the time to get to the emergency room. It absolutely is important and it supplements urgent care and other (options)," said Roger Peterson, Executive Director of the Wendell Chamber of Commerce.
It's located at 2021 Wendell Valley Boulevard, right off Wendell Falls Parkway and a short distance from I-87.
"There is a piece of land right across the parking lot that we own that hopefully will house a future medical office building for primary care and some of our specialists. That will be coming, it's probably a couple years away, but we absolutely have plans to bring more healthcare to this community," Knaup noted.
It's also close to Wendell Falls, the massive residential and business development that accounts for a significant percentage of the town's population.
"This was the fastest-growing town in the state last year," said Peterson.
According to the US Census Bureau Wendell's population has more than doubled since 2010, from 5,845 people to an estimated 12,440 as of July 2022.
"It's enormous. As the town is doubling in size, all supporting services, healthcare, accounting and dentistry, all of these need to grow at least at the same rate to support the population here. Additional expansion beyond just the Healthplex that opened its doors for business today is critical for all of us that are residents here in the eastern part of the county," said Peterson.
Peterson believes the new health facility could play a role in attracting further business development.
"Quality of life is always important to a potential employer. Quality of life for their employees, many of whom will reside in this area. All of these things matter significantly. Access to health care is huge," said Peterson.
WakeMed projects providing care for 14,000 people in the first year, which equals about 38 people daily. While Knaup tells ABC 11 the facility is fully staffed, they do anticipate needing to add as volume increases in the future.
On its first day being opened, the facility served 29 patients from 7 a.m. until midnight.