Audit: Veterans Face Long Wait At VA Hospitals, Fresno Lowest In State 25 Days
By Erik Rosales
FRESNO, Calif. (KMPH) — UPDATE 5:17 PM: A new audit shows VA hospitals and clinics across the county kept more than 100,000 patients waiting long periods to see doctors and some even died. The audit found appointment supervisors purposely falsified appointment dates to make waiting times appear shorter, than they actually were. So far, it's led to the resignation of former Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. Plus, it's forced President Obama to describe the VA health care system as a "systemic lack of integrity." Several veterans say they were not surprised. Veteran Bob McLaughlin says, I'm not shocked, through personal experiences and what I've seen in the media, I find it insulting to all veterans everywhere." The audit found patients seeking care in the Greater Los Angeles area VA system are waiting an average of 56 days to see a doctor for the first time. The VA hospital in Fresno had an average of 25 days. Dr. Wessel Meyer, who is acting Director says, "Overall, we are very happy with the results for primary care. Our new patient wait time for primary care is under the 30 day bench mark. Locally, when we really need to get a patient in as appropriate we can get them in the next day." Some veterans disagree. McLaughlin says, "I'm supposed to get off some heavy duty medication this August. I'm supposed to be on it one year and I get a letter from them a couple of weeks ago that my next cardiac appointment will be next January." Doctor Meyer says Fresno's VA hospital has an open door policy and takes every complaint seriously and will investigate. Doctor Meyer says, "Under no circumstances should there be a delay for the level of care for our veterans." Doctor Meyer says the audit has cleared Fresno's VA hospital, and no further investigation will take place and he's proud of the level of care veterans receive.--------------------------------(AP) WASHINGTON -- Patients seeking care through the VA's Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System are waiting an average of 56 days for their first appointment with a primary care doctor - four times longer than the department's goal.A report from the Department of Veterans Affairs says the average wait time for new patients at other VA hospitals in California ranged from about 25 days in Fresno to about 44 days in Loma Linda.The Veterans Affairs Department says more than 57,000 patients are still waiting for initial medical appointments at VA hospitals and clinics 90 days or more after requesting them. An additional 64,000 who enrolled in the VA health care system over the past 10 years have never had appointments.The department says an audit of 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics found that the agency's complicated appointment process created confusion among scheduling clerks and supervisors. The audit says a 14-day goal for seeing first-time patients was unattainable given the growing demand among veterans for health care and poor planning. The VA has since abandoned that goal.The audit released Monday says 13 percent of VA schedulers reported supervisors telling them to falsify appointment dates to make waiting times appear shorter.The findings are part of a national audit ordered after a whistleblower claimed veterans were dying while waiting for care in Phoenix.Complete report Monday night on the KMPH Fox 26 News at Ten
KMPH Fox 26 is the Central Valley's news leader, covering Fresno, California and the surrounding area, including Clovis, Madera, Hanford, Visalia, Biola, Kerman, Tranquillity, San Joaquin, Reedley, Coalinga, Avenal, Lemoore, Tulare, Selma, Caruthers, Tollhouse, Three Rivers, Porterville, and Merced.