Womack Army Medical Center has undertaken an enormous renovation to reorganize about 79,000 square feet of space to its existing footprint.

The nearly $23 million renovation, which began Monday, is projected to be completed by July 14, 2014, said Maj. Kipling Marsh, hospital alteration transition officer.

The renovation will ensure that customers are getting the best possible use of space in a center that sees more than 220,000 eligible beneficiaries.

It is expected to include a renovated emergency department to improve flow; a newly outfitted in-patient and out-patient records area; expanded administration areas within the Department of Family Medicine; and an expanded mother-baby unit.

All services will be maintained as renovations are underway, but customers can expect delays, Marsh said.

The changes are important to a center that has seen an influx of customers and works to meet the health care needs of an expanding population.

Though the Department of Obstetrics-Gynecology has added subspecialty services such as infertility treatments, the physical space that it currently occupies has been virtually unchanged since 2000, said Mark Wehrum, department chief. With at least 250 babies delivered each month, the department is at maximum capacity, despite more than doubling the number of providers, he said.

The mother-baby units routinely house two mothers to a room who are required to share a bathroom facility, but the renovations would allow patients to have private rooms.

The Emergency Department will also see changes while renovations are afoot. Some of its services will be provided in modular buildings that are to be erected outside the Emergency Department (at the All American entrance).

“We’re going to have lesser capacity to see patients while we are in this transitional space,” said Lt. Col. Peter Buckley, chief, Department of Emergency Medicine.

The upside of the renovations is that they will include an increased capacity for trauma, bigger rooms and more private space in a department that sees about 80,000 patients a year.

The expected wait time for emergency treatment will still be accessed according to triage standards — more severely ill patients will be seen ahead of those who are in less need of critical care.

In addition to the renovations, Buckley said the department would seek Level III trauma certification, which is offered through the American College of Surgeons.

The certification, estimated to be obtained by Spring 2015, will help decrease mortality in patients and help WAMC to concentrate on life-threatening, chronic illnesses.

In the wake of these changes, authorities are encouraging customers to use the Emergency Department for emergency purposes only and not for services that can be addressed by primary care physicians.

To lessen crowding in the hospital, customers are encouraged to use WAMC’s central patient access services system by calling 907-APPT (2778), book follow-up appointments face-to-face at the end of a primary-care visit, or to visit tricareonline.com, a web-enabled service, said Robin Talley, chief, Clinical Operations Division.

There are bonuses to each system.

For instance, calling 907-APPT (2778) allows patients to secure same-day or more immediate appointments and visiting tricareonline.com gives patients access to their electronic health care records, provides the ability to see lab results within 72 hours, and gives patients access to their appointment history, Talley said.

Patients are also encouraged to cancel appointments that could be used by other patients.

Appointments may be cancelled by calling 907-CNCL (2625).

For more information about WAMC, visit www.wamc.amedd.army.mil.