Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

June 10, 2014

Audit flags VA clinics for long wait time

By WENDY HOLDREN
for the Daily Telegraph

BECKLEY (AP) — Although none of the Veterans’ Affairs Medical Centers in West Virginia met the goal of 14 days for new patient waiting times, Beckley VAMC was not flagged for additional investigation.

Both Clarksburg and Martinsburg medical centers were flagged for further review, with wait times at an average of 54 days and 47 days, respectively.

New patients at the Beckley VAMC waited an average of 39 days before their first appointment, and patients at the VAMC at Huntington had the lowest wait time with 29 days.

System-wide audit findings report that the 14-day wait time target was “not attainable” given growing demand for services and lack of planning for resource requirements.

The report also said 13 percent of scheduling staff said they were instructed to enter a different date than what the veteran had requested in the appointment scheduling system.

As for the medical centers under further review, any instances of “suspected willful misconduct” are being reported to the VA Office of Inspector General; if the OIG chooses not to immediately investigate, Veterans Health Administration leadership will launch either a fact finding or formal administrative investigation.

“Where misconduct is confirmed, appropriate personnel actions will promptly be pursued,” the fact sheet reported.

The VHA had more than 6 million appointments scheduled across the system last month, and more than 57,000 veterans are waiting to be scheduled for care.

According to the audit, nearly 64,000 veterans in the past 10 years have enrolled in the health care system and have not been seen for an appointment.

West Virginia’s VAMCs are separated in four different Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN); Clarksburg is in VISN 4, Martinsburg is in VISN 5, Beckley is in VISN 6 and Huntington is in VISN 9.

Other medical centers within VISN 6 include Durham, N.C.; Fayetteville, N.C.; Hampton, Va.; Asheville, N.C.; Richmond, Va.; Salem, Va.; and Salisbury, N.C.

The Salisbury medical center reported the lowest new patient waiting times in VISN 6 at an average of 29 days, and Fayetteville reported the highest with an average of 83 days.

Beckley VAMC Administrator Karin McGraw was not available for comment Monday, but the center’s public relations officer said a a press conference to further discuss the issue will be held today.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com