Officials say Durham VA hospital addressing wait times
Posted May 23, 2014
Durham, N.C. — Amid a national controversy over lengthy wait times for veterans seeking care at Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities, the Durham VA Medical Center opened a $13 million research wing Friday that will study post-traumatic stress, spinal cord injuries and infectious diseases.
Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and Democratic congressmen David Price and G.K. Butterfield attended the ribbon-cutting for the research center, and all commented on the issues plaguing the VA system. They vowed to correct them and said the VA is committed to the highest quality care possible.
Last week, two employees at the Durham hospital were placed on administrative leave, accused of falsifying appointment records between 2009 and 2012.
An audit team is at the hospital to review the accusations, and hospital director DeAnne Seekins said Friday that she will await the audit results before releasing any more information.
The Durham VA Medical Center reviews wait times on a monthly basis, Seekins said, but she couldn't cite an average wait time.
"We see our patients in a timely fashion. We assess their needs, and we get them to the appropriate care setting," she said. "I can tell you that we have worked aggressively. We have added over 110 staff over the last year and a half, so our wait times are actually very good at this point in time."
Lisa Walston told WRAL News that, in 2011, her husband waited eight months for a colonoscopy at the Durham VA hospital. By the time he was able to see someone, she said, he had advanced colon cancer, and he died last year.
Retired Marine John Brown said he's waited more than a year to see a primary care doctor at the Durham VA hospital after moving to the area from Jacksonville.
"When the Durham VA says their wait times are good or improving, they are not being truthful," Brown said in an email. "I have been in the system a dozen years and just got kicked to the curb over something as simple as a move to Raleigh."
VA officials said the agency has a goal of seeing veterans seeking medical help within 14 days, but that is not a firm policy. Waiting for an appointment can vary widely in different areas of care, they said.
Seekins stressed that the hospital is responsive to all patient complaints.
"I meet with veterans. I go to every one of our clinics. We speak with them openly and honestly. We are a very transparent organization," she said.
"We address every concern," she continued. "We have patient advocates who work right on the ground. They're there to greet the veterans, find out if they have issues that they would like for us to address. Any time a veteran raises an issue through a congressional office (or) raises it in a letter to me, we look at each case individually."