CLARKSBURG, W. Va. – An audit released Monday by the Department of Veterans Affairs revealed the wait time for new patients seeking a primary care doctor at the VA Center in Clarksburg is 54 days.
“When we looked at the numbers today, we were surprised at our wait times,” Beth Brown, Director of the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center said. “I’m having staff drill down to look, specifically, at the numbers of patients that are needing a visit within 14 days of a new patient.”
Overall, the audit showed more than 57,000 veterans waiting to be scheduled for care and another nearly 64,000 veterans enrolled in the VA health system in the past decade who have never received an appointment.
By Brown’s count, the number of these patients is low.
“As of [Monday] morning, we only had four patients that needed an appointment,” she said. “So we want to go back and drill down to look at the data and make sure that if we’ve got some outliers that we’re not aware of, that we can find out where those are.”
According to Brown, part of the “drill down” will consist of going deeper and more thoroughly into numbers they keep track of daily.
“We look into our numbers everyday as to the number of patients that are scheduled and in what types of clinics they’re scheduled. Then, weekly we also drill down to look at specific delays into getting an appointment.”
VA guidelines set a goal for veterans to be seen within 14 days of their desired date for an appointment, however, the audit has deemed this goal “unattainable” due to a lack of resources and increasing demand.
At this time, Brown is not sure if this goal is truly out of reach due to the reasons laid out in the findings, but does know the medical center will still strive for the previous target.
“We’re going to try to get the patients in as soon as possible,” she said. “Fourteen days is a very rigorous goal. I think that if you don’t have a goal to try to attain, then you may not have the emphasis on that.”
Other VA facilities West Virginians look to for care also were found to not be meeting the target. Martinsburg’s wait time is 47 days; Beckley’s is 39 days; Huntington’s is just under 29 days; Pittsburgh’s is just under 60 days; D.C.’s is just over 38 days.
The audit recommended additional review at numerous facilities, including four in West Virginia.
The Clarksburg and Martinsburg medical centers both were flagged for further investigation, as well as the Westover and Wood County facilities.
“I think it’s important to remember that our veterans are our number one priority and that we will do everything that we can to make sure that they receive the timely care and the quality of care that they deserve,” Brown said.
The numbers were released Monday by the Department of Veterans Affairs as part of a national audit.
A nationwide chart of the wait times found by the audit can be found here.