VA System Working with Local Providers to Reduce Wait Times
By Joseph Franz
Wait times at the VA has been a common headline lately. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has come under fire as tens of thousands of veterans nationwide have been waiting three months or more to get their first VA medical appointment. This has caused dozens of investigations and led Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.
But how bad is it here in San Diego County? While the VASDHS is not under investigation and officials say that existing patients see a doctor within two weeks, the average wait time for a new patient in San Diego is still 44 days (as compared to 56 days in Los Angeles and 30 in San Francisco). And the call center in Mission Valley, which handles all appointments has lately received more than 10,000 calls a week.
So even though staff and resources are strained, there is good news, and things are being done:
– The VA system is opening a new clinic in Sorrento Valley this summer which will initially have capacity for 4,800 patients and eventually 7,200 patients.
– Seven new Nurse Practioners are being hired along with additional staff and added mental health providers.
– Recently, the VA Central Office has given VASDHS an additional $11 million.
– Clinic hours have increased to include evenings and weekends.
Quite possibly the biggest aid, however, is coming from local healthcare providers outside the VA system. In fact, all veterans with an appointment beyond 90 days are being contacted and offered to see a provider in the community at the VA expense. Last year, the San Diego VA spent more than $35 million of its $622 million budget on non-VA care. And according to Jeff Gering, director of the VA medical system in San Diego, this number is expected to be well-exceeded this year.
San Diego is not the only area, however, looking for outside help to ensure that veterans receive the care they need in an appropriate time. Many in Congress have been pushing for legislation that would allow veterans to get private care if they have been waiting 30 days or more to see a doctor within the VA system.
Sen. John McCain, who has been a proponent of this action, said, “We need to allow flexibility for the veteran[s] to go to the place where they can get health care in the most efficient way possible, rather than these unconscionable delays.”
At Encinitas Nursing and Rehabilitation Center we pride ourselves in working with the community to make certain that the people of San Diego County are getting the care they need. If you or a loved one has questions about skilled nursing and rehabilitation care, please contact us at http://encinitasnursingandrehab.com or call us at (760) 753-6423.
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