ACWORTH — What started as a joke between a patient and her doctor became reality early Monday morning at Acworth’s new $22.5 million medical facility.

“I said, ‘Do I have to do this now?’ and he said, ‘No, you can wait until the surgery center opens.’ And I was like, ‘I can be your first patient.’ I told him only if I was his first patient. I didn’t know I’d be the surgery center’s first patient,” said Acworth resident Donna Sill.

Sill, who teaches kindergarten at Lewis Elementary School in Kennesaw, underwent the first procedure at the new outpatient surgery center, located at the WellStar Acworth Health Park off Cobb Parkway, just north of Cedarcrest Road. The surgery removed a buildup of scar tissue on a knuckle of her thumb.

Effectively caring for kindergartners takes both hands, Sill said, adding that now she’ll be glad to be able to comfortably fit her thumb through children’s scissors now.

Sill said the surgery was over quickly and the new facility saved her and her husband a more than half-hour trip to WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta for her procedure.

“It was great,” she said. “We made it in less than 15 minutes.”

The 25,000-square-foot surgery center held its ribbon cutting and public tours on June 29 and is an addition to the health park, which opened in 2012, according to Gail Cardoso, nurse and facility manager at the center. Cardoso said WellStar invested about $1.1 million in “state-of-the-art” equipment for the center, which will handle surgeries that do not require an overnight hospital stay.

She said the new center has three operating rooms for minor surgeries, including tonsillectomies, sinus surgery, plastic surgery and various pediatric surgeries, and three procedure rooms used for more routine medical needs, like injections and consultations. The facility also has 15 rooms for patients and their families to prepare before surgery and recover post-operation.

Cardoso said the surgery center is designed with the patient in mind, with walls painted soft colors — lavender and beige, among others — and art depicting historic buildings in downtown Acworth.

“It’s all about the patient experience,” she said. “Patient experience is the guiding force of everything we do. And those surgery centers have taken that to the next level.”

Daniel Holtz, a surgeon at the WellStar Acworth Health Park outpatient surgery center, operated on Sill. Holtz said Sill’s surgery was especially exciting for him, since he’s been pushing for a surgery center that would be accessible to the Acworth community for quite a while. Before this center’s opening, he said, his patients had to go to Marietta or Paulding County.

Holtz said the urgent care center at the WellStar Acworth Health Park is the busiest in the state, so the demand for medical services warranted a surgery center.

“It’s much more convenient for them to be able to come to the (Acworth) health park and not only see me, because that’s where my office is, but also see their other doctors at the health park here,” Holtz said. “So it’s very convenient for them to have all of their medical (procedures) and physicians in one area than having to come here to see a doctor and then have something done somewhere else.”

The WellStar Acworth Health Park was the first of three health parks WellStar has opened in the last seven years. The East Cobb Health Park off Roswell Road, east of Providence Road, opened in September 2014, and the Vinings Health Park off Atlanta Road, near its intersection with Cumberland Parkway, opened three years later. WellStar health parks in Holly Springs and Alpharetta are scheduled to open later this year.

Cardoso said WellStar’s goal in opening the health parks is to improve accessibility of health care for its patients, as well as reduce lengthy hospital stays.

Follow Thomas Hartwell on Twitter at twitter.com/MDJThomas.

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