Local News

Durham, Fayetteville VA hospitals respond to scathing audit

Posted June 10
Updated June 11

— Durham VA Medical Center officials are challenging findings from a national audit of wait times for patients.

The audit found that Durham was second in the state for the highest number of days new patients wait for an appointment – 64 days – and the percentage of patients seen within two weeks – 95 percent.

When it comes to new mental health patients, the average wait time at the Durham VA is 104 days, according to the report, but the hospital disputes that finding.

“The Durham VA is not able to validate this data,” the hospital said in a statement. “According to a June 9 (national database report) covering fiscal year 2014 to date, more than 58 percent of new mental health patients were seen within 14 days and the overall average wait time for a new patient appointment was 25 days to the first visit.”

The Durham VA said it will review its numbers to see why they’re different from the report.

The nationwide audit was ordered after reports in April that veterans were dying while waiting for care in Phoenix. A preliminary federal review found that long patient waits and falsified records were common throughout VA hospitals nationwide.

In May, two Durham VA employees were placed on administrative leave for allegedly engaging in inappropriate scheduling practices.

Across the country, more than 57,000 veterans waited 90 days or more for their first VA appointment and an additional 64,000 never got an appointment after enrolling and requesting one, the report found.

VA patients are supposed to see a doctor or any other medical professional within 14 days of their requested date. Any wait longer than two weeks is supposed to be documented.

The audit found that the average wait time for new patients across North Carolina ranged from 29 days in Salisbury to 83 days in Fayetteville, the longest wait among VA hospitals in North Carolina and Virginia and the third longest wait time nationwide.

Space constraints, along with an increase in patients and responsibilities from the federal compensation and pension program, are why wait times at the Fayetteville VA are so long, the hospital said in a statement.

“We have kept our focus on providing safe, high-quality care and working with our veterans to provide them the care that they desire at a time that they want,” the hospital said. “We recognize that our access to care for our veteran patients is not at the goals that VA established, and we are working on many fronts to bring our quality care to more veterans.”

The Fayetteville facility is leasing additional space, recruiting extra staff and constructing new facilities, the hospital said.

Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson will visit the facility on Thursday.

“We accept the reported data as a call to redouble our efforts, but we also want to point out something that’s lost in the discussion: the dedication, commitment and determination of our staff,” the hospital said. “Lest we forget, in spite of daunting challenges, they remain focused on our patients and work tirelessly to improve the health and well-being of the men and women who receive care here.“

18 Comments

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  • Well I. D'Clare Jun 11, 5:53 p.m.

    Never had to wait long for anything at the VAMC/Durham.

    I did wait TWO YEARS, however, just to receive the paperwork to register for care at the VAMC/Fayetteville when I moved further south in NC, and that TWO YEAR wait just for the registration paperwork to come in the mail for me to complete convinced me, if I need medical care, I'll go back to the Durham facility, even though it means a longer drive.

  • landonsgrampa Jun 11, 5:02 p.m.

    This is exactly what Obamacare will look like in just a few years. With any luck, anyone other than a Dem, will be pres, and we can get healthcare back to some symbolism of what it should be. Either way, vets, like myself, who are 100% dependent on the VA for healthcare, will continue to suffer.

  • yankee1 Jun 11, 2:11 p.m.

    What we have morphed into is a country full of folks who are so misguided and self centered that all they care about is what happens to them. How can so many people work for government at all levels and watch as the rights of their neighbors are taken away, fraud and corruption runs rampant in whatever office full of bureaucrats they work in, lies and deceit are the daily order of business by their supervisors and co-workers and say or do nothing. What has happened to the moral compass of this country? We better figure it out and figure it out quickly.

  • salt of the earth Jun 11, 12:51 p.m.

    There was no "lifetime medical care" promise made to me. When I was discharged in 2005, it was... View More

    — Posted by combatvet

    It's not in any enlistment contract ever signed. You have go to the VA website to find it.

    Go through the questions on this link and I think you'll be surprised.

    http://hbexplorer.vacloud.us/

    I did it about two weeks ago to prove a point to a colleague. I used $30k for income, no service connected disabilities, honorable discharge over 5 years ago after completing active service of 24 months or longer, no purple heart and no combat tours.

    According to the website, this is what I'm entitled to....
    Your VA Medical Benefits Package includes:
    •Preventive Care
    •Primary Care
    •Specialty Care
    •Mental Health
    •Home Health Care •Geriatrics and Extended Care •Medical Equipment/Prosthetic Items and Aids

    Out of Pocket Expenses Premiums, Cost-Shares and Deductibles $0 Hospital Inpatient Copays $0 Hospital Inpatient Per Diem Charges $0 Outpatient Copays $0 Medication copays $10 for each 30-day or less supply of medication

  • combatvet Jun 11, 12:13 p.m.

    There was no "lifetime medical care" promise made to me. When I was discharged in 2005, it was a 2 year period if you were deployed for OIF or OEF. Now with service connected disabilities totalling over 30%, it is a free health care in general, but only specialists for service related injuries. Example, they don't cover optical for me since I don't have an optical injury.

  • salt of the earth Jun 11, 11:58 a.m.

    The issues being reported are merely the symptoms of a terrible Ponzi scheme perpetrated by the... View More

    — Posted by NativeNC0ne

    BINGO! When I joined the Army 30 years ago, there was no such promise. All you were entitled to was - a VA-backed loan, a GI Bill I had to pay into and a headstone and plot at a VA cemetery.

    VHA was strictly for veterans with service connected injuries. Retirees got Tricare.

    If you didn't retire and had no service connected injuries, you got nothing.

    I think about 20 years ago, Congress and VHA expanded the eligibility list to basically include all veterans with earned income below certain values.

    They created an unearned, entitlement that is a tremendous windfall for lower income vets.

    Who is going to spend a few hundred dollars a month on health insurance if the VA will treat you free? With the money you save you can pay the note on a new pickup truck and a smartphone.

    If these people were welfare moms instead of vets, people would be howling about this unearned entitlement.

  • NativeNC0ne Jun 11, 11:34 a.m.

    The issues being reported are merely the symptoms of a terrible Ponzi scheme perpetrated by the elected officials of this country. They promise lifetime medical care for two years of service in the armed forces with no real way to pay for it. They knew or should have known that there was no way to pay for it. It is just like social security, medicare, medicaid, etc. A giant Ponzi scheme. If a private company did the same thing, the officers of the corporation would be in Jail. Bernie Madoff's crimes are nothing compared to this.

  • combatvet Jun 11, 11:31 a.m.

    I found it easier to go to the ER for certain things because I didn't want to wait for a phone call back within so many days to then be told when my appointment is weeks later.

  • Iwasasoldier4u Jun 11, 11:29 a.m.

    I can't comment on the Durham VA but I can tell you that I submitted the information and requested a Dr's appointment in Dec 2011 and to this moment have heard absolutely nothing from anyone. Every time I try to post this WRAL doesn't allow it lets see this time.

  • sinenomine Jun 11, 11:21 a.m.

    I wonder if the reason the Durham VA can't validate might be because the data it provided had been falsified in the first place.

    I also wonder who did the audit.

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