Local News

Durham VA: Wait times cut in half from last year

Posted May 30

— Veterans seeking medical help at the Durham VA Medical Center usually wait more than a month to be seen, officials said Friday, but that is half the wait they often endured a year ago.

On the same day that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki resigned under pressure because of the ongoing controversy surrounding lengthy wait times at dozens of VA hospitals and clinics nationwide – some veterans have died while stuck on waiting lists that facilities kept hidden from administrators – Durham VA officials met with reporters to outline the steps they're taking to reduce wait times.

"Two years ago, we had patients who were coming into the system who were possibly going onto a wait list," said DeAnne Seekins, director of the Durham VA hospital.

The average wait time for a new patient to be seen at the Durham VA is down to 34 days, compared with 65 days last year and 55 days in 2012, Seekins said.

The hospital has added 110 staff members to keep up with caseloads, she said.

Two hospital employees were placed on administrative leave three weeks ago after being accused of falsifying appointment records between 2009 and 2012.

An audit team is at the hospital to review the accusations, and Seekins said she expects to receive their findings by mid-August.

"If the audit identifies that there were access issues at that point in time, we have been addressing those issues," she said.

Seekins said she is sure that no scheduling misconduct is occurring now.

"I am confident that we have functioned with the highest integrity and have not compromised our values," she said.

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