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VA Hospitals Still Make Vets Wait

By    |   Monday, 15 December 2014 05:27 PM

One in 10 Veterans Affairs patients — more than 600,000 vets — are still waiting at least a month to see a doctor at hospitals and clinics, according to a new analysis of federal records.

The findings, reported by USA TODAY , suggest that the Veterans Health Administration has made some progress in dealing with the backlog of cases that forced former secretary Eric Shinseki to retire this year, but the agency is still falling short.
The VA has cut the overall number of veterans who had waited more than four months for an appointment — falling form 120,000 in May to 23,000 in October — mostly because patients received care from private providers. Since May, the VA has also reduced the number of veterans waiting the longest for care by 57 percent, according to James Hutton, a VA spokesman.
From June to September, the VA completed 19 million appointments, an increase of 1.2 million compared with the same time last year.
But the figures also show dozens of hospitals and clinics leave a quarter or more of all their patients waiting 30 days or more for an appointment. Among the findings:
  • Some facilities still have extremely long wait times for basic care, including 64 that have average wait times over 60 days for new patients seeking primary care.
  • Major facilities — including hospitals in Baltimore; Jacksonville, Fla.; Temple, Texas, and Atlanta — are among the worst offenders, with each having at least 30,000 pending appointments.
  • In Jacksonville, the average new patient is waiting 77 days and only sees two-thirds of its patients within 30 days, the worst rate of any major facility in the VA system.
  • Ten facilities reported waits of more than three months for a new patient to see a specialist. At the top of the list: the Westmoreland, Pa., clinic, where patients are waiting nearly six months for a specialty appointment.
  • Thirty-three facilities have kept new patients seeking a mental-health appointments waiting for at least two months. Among them: large hospitals in Martinsburg, W.Va., Amarillo, Texas, and Tuskegee, Ala. And 10 clinics and hospitals kept established patients waiting at least three weeks longer than the patients wanted for mental health appointments.
  • Some small locations have big waiting times, as well. The Wagner, S.D., clinic has only 155 total appointments of any type pending — and its new patient wait time is 153 days.
To recruit more healthcare providers, VA Secretary Robert McDonald has proposed pay hikes for VA doctors and dentists, Hutton said. McDonald announced a restructuring of the VA on Nov. 10.

"VA's goal continues to be to provide timely, high-quality healthcare for veterans," Hutton said in a statement. "Veterans and VA employees nationwide understand the need for reform, and VA is committed to putting these reforms into place. And while we have significantly improved capacity and access to care, we have not yet achieved our intended state — systemic and timely access across the board. It will be an ongoing and significant effort to reach our goals."

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One in 10 Veterans Affairs patients are still waiting at least a month to see a doctor at hospitals and clinics, according to a new analysis of federal records.
va, hospital, wait, veteran, healthcare
Monday, 15 December 2014 05:27 PM
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