HAMMOND — More than 1000 people gathered Thursday for a behind-the-scenes look at the five-story expansion at North Oaks Health System slated to open Dec. 17.

Those attending the facility’s open house got to see how the hospital, with its new helipad, is equipped to deal with trauma and how new equipment, such as the da Vinci Si robotic surgical system, is changing the way Northshore patients receive health care.

Lindsay Pinell, a physician recruiter, said the da Vinci is a surgical robot that performs surgery guided by a physician.

The da Vinci Surgical System is used in procedures that treat a range of conditions, including bladder cancer, colorectal cancer, coronary artery disease, endometriosis, gynecologic cancer, heavy uterine bleeding, kidney disorders, kidney cancer, mitral valve prolapse, obesity, prostate cancer, throat cancer, uterine fibroids and uterine prolapse.

“It’s taking laparoscopic surgery to the next level,” Communications Director Melanie Zaffuto said.

The facility expansion also features 95 additional private patient beds, 14 high-tech operating suites, 14 surgical intensive care unit beds, 11 additional same-day surgery beds and a rehabilitation gym for orthopedic and neurosurgical patients.

Zaffuto said the new addition will offer patients more privacy, the latest surgical services and expert staff.

“I commend the North Oaks Medical Center family for seeing the vital expansion to fruition,” said Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, the keynote speaker. “The people of Hammond and surrounding communities are fortunate to have this facility in the area.”

The new five-story expansion, which took two years to build and more than six years to plan, brings the hospital a long way from its inception in 1960 as a 60-bed facility.

The expansion, Zaffuto said, was done in keeping with the original goal of providing up-to-date health care for Northshore residents.

The project, which cost about $95 million, “allows us to take health care in a new direction,” Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Michele K. Sutton said.

“When you choose North Oaks to fulfill your health care, we take that as a huge responsibility,” Sutton said. “We believe that the people of this community deserve the highest quality of care that can be provided.”

Just before hospital tours began, many youth enjoyed the attractions, which included a train ride and photos with Santa Claus while adults enjoyed outdoor snow flurries, cookies and hot chocolate, health screenings and door prize drawings.

Before the ribbon cutting, the Livingston Parish Children’s Choir Chorale performed Christmas carols. The Louisiana Air National Guard 236th Combat Communications Squadron, based in Hammond, served as Color Guard. Alexis Marceaux, of NBC’s “The Voice” fame, performed the national anthem and Christmas carols and also signed autographs.

North Oaks Medical Center is located at 15790 Paul Vega, MD, Drive in Hammond.

For more information, call North Oaks at (985) 345-2700, or log on to http://www.northoaks.org.