VA Long Waits Continue; Some Progress In Minnesota
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Government data reviewed by The Associated Press shows that the number of patients facing long waits at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics has not been dropping, despite reforms and a funding boost last summer.
Nearly 900,000 medical appointments completed at about 1,000 VA facilities from August to February failed to meet the health system's timeliness goal, which calls for patients to be seen within 30 days.
A closer look reveals deep geographic disparities.
Many of those delays are clustered in a handful of Southern states.
VA officials cite numerous efforts to ramp up capacity. They include building new health centers and adding 8,000 employees since April.
Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson acknowledged that the agency has been slow to adjust in places where there is rising demand
Minnesota's VA clinics and hospitals are faring slightly better in delivering timely care to veterans than the national average.
The AP analysis found that about 2 percent of appointments at the state's clinics and hospitals take longer than 30 days to complete. That beats the national average by nearly 1 percentage point.
But several of the state's facilities have struggled to meet the 30-day national standard that stems from legislation passed in August meant to tackle growing delays.
Nearly 4 percent of appointments at a clinic in Maplewood stretched beyond that window and more than 3 percent of appointments in Ramsey were delayed beyond 30 days.
Minneapolis VA Director Patrick Kelly says he's aware of trouble at both clinics. He says new federal money to hire additional physicians should help.