New Oklahoma VA Patients Wait 31-44 Days To Be Seen

Monday, June 9th 2014, 2:59 pm
By: News On 6

An audit released Monday by the Department of Veterans Affairs, found that many veterans were waiting three months or more for their first medical appointment; veterans are supposed to get an appointment within 14 days.

It said that over the past ten years, 63,000 veterans requested appointments and never got one.

That same audit revealed that 98 percent of Green Country veterans trying to get an appointment at the VA Medical Center in Muskogee get in within 30 days, but there is still a small percent waiting to see a doctor.

According to the audit, 516 veterans waited more than a month to get in to the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center. The veteran we spoke with said that's no success rate.

Deborah Nelson is part of the two percent waiting to get an appointment.

"And they said, 'We can't get you in until July 2nd,' and I said, 'I'm in way too much pain to wait until July 2nd,'" Nelson said.

The Army veteran said she's been trying to make an appointment for neck and back pain since April.

"And now every time I've called to see if I can get them to move the dates up, they don't return my calls," she said.

NATS "I need to call and set up an appointment with you..."

Nelson said she believes the VA Medical Center in Muskogee is understaffed.

"We can always improve. It'd be great to have 99 percent, or it'd be great to have 100 percent," said Medical Center Director, James Floyd.

Floyd said his hospital is not understaffed and will soon create a call center.

"Designated to call patients all day long," he said.

He said patients who can't get a timely appointment should call one of the four patient advocates.

"Those patient advocates work full-time to resolve those matters so that those don't become a hindrance in their care experience," said Floyd.

Nelson said she did call, but to no avail.

Floyd showed us numbers that indicate the hospital is making gains by decreasing infection rates and the length of stay to three-and-a-half days.

"How long it takes them from the time they walk in the door, to the time they get into a bed," Floyd said.

He said the good thing about the VA scandal is that it's resulting in new initiatives to reduce waitlists.

"Making contact with the patients," said Floyd. "Find out the urgency of their care. How soon can we get them in? I think those are good things."

For Nelson, change can't come soon enough.

"I just don't understand how it's not a priority for them," she said.

Floyd said he and his staff know they have a big responsibility to get veterans in, and out and on with their lives, and they are doing what they can.