Fayetteville VA hospital seeing shortage of ER docs
Posted September 10, 2014
Fayetteville, N.C. — Imagine an emergency room with no doctors. That's exactly what some veterans seeking treatment at the VA Medical Center in Faytteville say they've recently encountered.
Veronica Bailey went to the hospital around 1 a.m. Sunday with abdominal pains and said she was shocked when she was told she would have to wait seven hours because there were no doctors available to examine her.
"It's a disgrace. I mean, we have given our best young years of our life to Uncle Sam, and this is what we get back?" said Bailey, who served 22 years in the military.
In addition to no doctors, veterans are still complaining about long wait times for basic services.
"I came in 11 a.m. on Tuesday to get my blood pressure checked," Norman McCollum said. "I didn't see a doctor until 9 p.m. that night."
A representative of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C., says what's happening in Fayetteville is all about the numbers. The annual growth rate of vets using VA hospitals nationwide is about 1 percent.
Because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Fayetteville's veteran population, however, is at 7.2 percent, and the veterans' hospital is struggling to increase the number of doctors on staff to meet the growing demand for medical services.
Jeffery Melvin, a public affairs officer at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center, said the hospital has had to limit emergency service at times because of staffing shortages with its emergency room provider service.
In July, it did not renew the contract of the company providing ER doctors in Fayetteville.
Melvin said that all patients are screened and evaluated by nurses for acute, life-threatening conditions.
A fix is in place, however. Melvin said the hospital has contracted with a new provider and is in the process of adding ER doctors to the staff.
"We're credentialing the new providers, and I would say, over the next couple of weeks, we should expect that kind of condition would not happen again," he said.
That should be complete by Oct. 1.
The medical center is also addressing the long wait times by opening up temporary clinics in both Jacksonville and Fayetteville.
Hospital administrators say they believe that, once the clinics open, reduced wait times will eventually follow.