FORT HOOD, Texas - Fort Hood's March babies will likely be born in the new Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center Women's Health Services facility.

With walls painted, sidewalks poured and shrubs planted, the 50,000-square-foot addition to the medical center is nearly complete.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is scheduled to turn over the new east wing to CRDAMC Nov. 17, and within a few months, furniture and equipment will be installed and patients can start receiving care.

"Our main goal of moving into this facility is to improve patient satisfaction," said Dr. (Col.) Elizabeth Spooner, chief, Obstetrics and Gynecology. "We already give the highest quality care, but we are hoping that we'll be able to improve our customer service."

The majority of OB/GYN services, including labor and delivery, will move to the new facility; however infertility, perinatology, genetics and non-stress testing will remain in the current location.

Spooner said the additional space would provide patients with added comfort and continuity of care.

As moms-to-be walk into the new, bright entrance, they will follow routine check-in procedures. However, instead of waiting for their names to be called, they will be handed a pager, and they can wait outside on the new patio or in the waiting room.

George Wall, department administrator, OB/GYN, predicts that those wait times should be reduced.

There will be 37 exam rooms in the new facility, and 10 exam rooms will remain in the current Women's Health Center, 12 more than currently available.

"It's designed to give us more space to take care of the patient," he said. "Providers will all have their own exam rooms, which should help with the patient flow and possibly alleviate some of the wait times."

There will also be nine 400-square-foot labor and delivery suites to accommodate the 200-250 babies born at CRDAMC each month.

"Currently, our labor rooms are smaller than my office," said Spooner. "It's very tight quarters. These rooms are larger, so it will accommodate more family members. And, if we anticipate a complication, we'll still be able to stay in the same room and don't have to move the mother down the hall."

Mothers will also experience more continuity, as the department moves to a new team concept. The team consisting of physicians, midwives, nurse practitioner, registered nurse and certified nursing assistants will be assigned to each patient. That team will follow her through her entire pregnancy.

"Every week, each case will be discussed among the team, so they have knowledge of what's going on with the medical care of every patient seen by that team," said Wall, admitting that the concept is challenging right now because of the lack of space.

With the new facility, providers will have their own exam rooms and offices within their team areas

"You'll always go to a team. You'll always go to the same spot," said Wall.

As the new space opens, the OB/GYN department plans to implement more changes like providing basic pharmacy services for mothers, so they can avoid waiting in line at the main pharmacy. Spooner said they will also canvas the community for further suggestions.

"We're very optimistic about the aesthetics of the clinic. We're hoping that that's going to help with our patient satisfaction," said Spooner.

To prepare for the opening, CRDAMC staff received training on the facility's plumbing, fire alarms, telecommunications, nurse call system and more.

Now, the U.S. Army Health Facility Planning Agency and the Corps of Engineers are working with the contractor to finalize and repair identified deficiencies before handing over the keys.

"The acquisition process for furniture and equipment has already started," said Todd Hampton, construction manager, HFPA." We've already had some equipment delivered on site."

Hampton anticipates patients care can begin in late February to early March.