Wait time at Huntington VA about 29 days
WASHINGTON — At just under 29 days, the Huntington VA Medical Center has the shortest average wait time for new patients seeking a primary care doctor of any VA Center in West Virginia, but that wait time still exceeds the target goal of 14 days set by the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to data released Monday.
VA guidelines, since abandoned, said veterans should be seen within 14 days of their desired date for a primary care appointment. The department has since said meeting that target was unattainable given existing resources and growing demand. Monday’s audit by the VA called the 2011 decision by senior VA officials to set that target, and base bonuses on meeting the target, an “organizational leadership failure.”
Huntington VA spokeswoman Debbie Brammer said in a written statement that the VAMC has extended its clinic hours into the evenings and weekends and has been authorized additional staff this year.
“The Huntington VA Medical Center’s goal is to be staffed at a level that allows us to provide every patient with an appointment according to their desired date,” she said in a release. “To do that, the VAMC is aggressively recruiting to fill provider vacancies.”
The Clarksburg, West Virginia, facility has the longest waits at 54 days — nearly four times the goal. Martinsburg’s wait time is 47 days, and Beckley’s is 39 days.
The VA Center in Clarksburg did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In Ohio, the federal audit showed that five Veterans Affairs medical facilities scheduled most of their patients for appointments within 30 days, and two of those sites have been flagged for further review.
The VA audit released Monday shows medical centers in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chillicothe and Dayton saw all but 2 percent of their patients within 30 days. The Cincinnati and Cleveland facilities are on the list for further review.
The Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Center in Columbus scheduled 94 percent of more than 36,700 appointments within a month. The Columbus center had more than 1,700 patients waiting between 31 and 60 days.
Two clinics in Kentucky are also being considered for a second look.
"The clinics at Fort Knox, Kentucky, which is home to an Army post, and Dupont Circle in Louisville, were marked in an audit released Monday for a closer examination of their practices.
Auditors found the VA hospital in Louisville scheduled 98 percent of all appointments within 30 days, while the facility in Lexington had a 97 percent rate.
The massive bureaucracy at the VA has come under intense scrutiny following allegations that 40 patients died while awaiting care at a Phoenix hospital where employees kept a secret waiting list to cover up delays. That scandal led to the resignation last month of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.
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