NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. - A ribbon cutting was held for Baptist Health's new high-tech surgery and procedural center Thursday, showing signs of growth for Nassau County.

“You cannot attract industry, heavy industry, to an area without high-quality health care to its employees,” said Laura DiBella, executive director of the county’s economic development. “Health care is at the core of every successful economic development environment. That really lends to not only high-quality jobs but also, on the flip, your quality of life.”

Baptist Nassau invested $22 million to build the facility, which becomes fully functional in January 2018. Hospital president Ed Hubel told First Coast News the facility spares no detail when it comes to comfort, efficiency, and state of the art.

“Our other waiting area was about 14 by 14. This waiting room here,” Hubel said, opening the door to an expansive space that's 80 feet long.

Hubel said one of his favorite non-medical features is a quiet patio area within sight of newly-planted palm trees, where outgoing patients and anxious loved ones can sit and reflect. A nearly-60-foot mural also adorns the wall behind the waiting stations. Even the patient exit area is built for privacy, Hubel quipping that someone fresh off a colonoscopy probably doesn’t want a lot of face time with strangers.

However, the center, situated within Baptist Nassau’s existing campus in Fernandina Beach, equally emphasizes medical excellence. Hubel and his staff are especially proud of four “smart” operating rooms equipped with ultra-high-resolution cameras above the beds.

“Whatever the physician is seeing, the team sees also,” Hubel said, adding that surgeries and procedures can be watched live from anywhere in the world via a secure network, aiding consultation and training.

“For other physicians to see it, we can integrate that to their physician’s office,” Hubel said.

Director of surgery Pam Bolden has been at the Center since Baptist Health acquired it 23 years ago. She speaks with the knowledge of one who’s seen a lot, combined with an enthusiasm for the project much like a child opening a present.

“We were able to put a lot of things into play that were important to us,” Bolden said. "Both from the patient and family experience piece, as well as for the clinicians.”

Another proud stop on the tour is a sanitation room boasting a “cart wash,” not unlike a car wash, in which any and all sizes of equipment, from the wheels up, can be sterilized. A few feet away are sanitation sinks that can be raised or lowered for ergonomic comfort and a device the size of an oven that uses sonic waves to literally shake contaminants off of surgical tools.

Just as the staff members say it’s not just a benefit to patients and the medical community, DiBella is confident the new facility will indeed prove to be a symptom of past growth and cause of future growth, helping Nassau County compete with big sister Duval and world-renowned facilities such as UF Health and the Mayo Clinic. DiBella uses the phrase “medical tourism,” painting a scenario in which the gleaming new surgical and procedural unit becomes a draw for patients from far away.

“All over the country, I’ve heard reports of people coming in from everywhere, even all over the world,” she said.