CLARKSBURG, W. Va. – The veterans and their families affected by the wait times at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center were given the opportunity to voice their frustrations, or their support, directly to the source.
New VA Secretary Robert McDonald sent out a release on August 5, ordering healthcare and benefits facilities to hold town-hall events by the end of September in an effort to regain the trust of their patients.
On Thursday, the facility in Clarksburg held its meeting in the chapel with administrators and staff there to hear what the veterans had to say.
“It gives them an opportunity to ask questions and find out some information about what we’re doing in the future,” Beth Brown, Louis A. Johnson Director said.
Most of the veterans in attendance said they were pleased with the quality of care they receive but have issues with what sometimes separates them from care. These things include difficulty in scheduling appointments, struggles in communicating with facility staff, issues with parking at the facility and rescheduled appointments.
In regard to the problems with appointments, Dr. Glenn Snider, Chief of Staff, told those in attendance they have difficulties with securing providers.
They have been authorized to hire more staff but run into challenges when hiring personnel.
For one, several medical specialties are simply not producing physicians in the country, particularly mental health professionals.
“We’re also handicapped by the fact that West Virginia doesn’t attract as many medical professionals as large areas, large cities would,” Snider said. “So, the supply is a problem and the number that come to West Virginia and stay in West Virginia is low in number.”
The staff also addressed individual’s issues when they could by pulling them aside and connecting them with an expert who could walk them through the process.
Patient Laura Ellington, of Fairmont said she was thrilled veterans had the opportunity to speak directly to the staff and the meeting probably covered more topics than they were expecting.
“I think the patient advocated and the other people that were actually taking names and numbers, I think they’re going to be a little busy,” she said with a laugh. “Because there’s actual people that needed actual results.”
She hopes the hospital takes the information provided to them and moves toward overall improvement.
The meetings is partially a response to a national audit released in June, indicating the average delay in Clarksburg was 54 days for new patients seeking a primary care doctor, 86 days for a specialist and 96 days for mental health services.
Brown said they have been since working to evaluate the problem and implement the best solution possible.
“What we’ve done since the audit was released in June is to try to identify where our specific issues were and then to put the resources where those issues were,” she said. “So, we have an individual that’s training our staff and re-training our staff. We’ve brought in additional schedulers to help.”
She added that the hospital is reaching out to its community partners to see if there are any other ways of bringing care closer to home.