ELLSWORTH, Maine — It has been years in the planning and more than a year in construction, but Maine Coast Memorial Hospital’s new emergency department is ready for operation.

The $10 million F. Eugene Dixon Jr. Emergency Center will begin treating patients at 7 a.m. Monday. The hospital is planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday.

“We’re really very excited about this,” said Jack McCormack, the hospital’s interim CEO. “This is really our front door. We want to offer an open-arm welcome to the community. So many times when people come to the hospital, they come right in through this department.”

The new facility is sorely needed, according to McCormack. The existing emergency department was designed to serve 12,000 patients annually and in recent years had more than 18,000 patient visits a year.

With more than 20,000 square feet of space for medical care, the new department will have the capacity to handle 24,000 visits a year.

In addition, the new facility includes upgraded critical care equipment and technology. It features 15 examination rooms, including two trauma treatment rooms and a negative pressure treatment room for dealing with potentially infectious diseases. The department also has an X-ray room and a vacuum tube system to transfer blood samples directly to the lab.

The exam rooms are private and the new lobby and waiting area is spacious, a major change from the cramped quarters in the existing emergency room, according to McCormack.

The “racetrack” layout, which consists of exam rooms arranged in a circle around the two central nurses’ stations, provides nurses with a clear view of exam rooms, and the upgraded information systems allow them to monitor patients constantly, according to Jane Sanderson, the public relations-marketing manager at MCMH.

The new facility has a heliport that will allow the hospital to transfer seriously injured patients to other hospitals and to receive patients from outlying areas, McCormack said.

While the emergency department has been the most visible part of the project, the hospital also has constructed a new high-tech sterile processing center where instruments and equipment from throughout the hospital are cleaned and sterilized.

According to Susan Tardif, nurse manager for surgical services, instruments now are being cleaned in the operating room before being taken to a small area to be sterilized.

“It is going to make the operating room much more efficient, and it will create a much better environment for cleaning the instruments,” Tardif said.

The center is scheduled to open within a few weeks.

Funding the $10 million project has been a challenge for the hospital, but McCormack said the community support for it has been terrific. The hospital had a goal of raising $5 million for the project, and the capital campaign is close to reaching that goal.

The late F. Eugene Dixon Jr. and his wife, Edith, got the ball rolling in 2004 with a promise to donate $1 million when the hospital was ready to build an emergency department. Dixon died in 2006, but he kept his promise with a bequest of $1 million for the project plus an additional $4 million toward an endowment fund for the hospital.

An anonymous $500,000 matching challenge grant in December has helped push the fundraising closer to the goal. The campaign has raised about $225,000 toward that match. In addition, employees and volunteers have surpassed their goal of raising $200,000 and have raised about $230,000.

If the hospital matches the $500,000 challenge grant, it still will have about $200,000 to raise toward the project.

“We still have a little way to go,” McCormack said. “But we’re so close we can taste it.”

Anyone interested in contributing to the capital campaign for the emergency department may contact the campaign office at 664-5548 or e-mail jfrost@mainehospital.org.