A new report says wait times for our nation's veterans needing care at VA hospitals and clinics have not dropped over the past year, and the clinic in Columbus is one of the worst in the country.
Despite recent reforms and a boost in funding, 11 out of the 75 clinics and hospitals with the highest percentage of patients, waiting more than 30 are in Georgia or southern Alabama.
Government figures show 10 of the 100 worst performing institutions are in Georgia. At the Columbus facility, close to 13 percent of patient visits involved a wait of more than month.
Nationwide, around 1 in 36 of those patients experienced a delay of at least a month. As of last May, the VHA had more than 6 million appointments scheduled across the system.
One veteran who wanted to remain anonymous said he has experienced delays but it's gotten better over the past year.
"Within the year the schedule appointment time has gotten better on the wait time but for walk ins you will wait," he said.
Another veteran says the wait times have improved over the past year but they are still long.
"I'm suffering from severe PTSD why is it that when I leave my appointment is 2 or 3 months from now when really I need to see someone more frequently," he said.
The report can be found at this link. More from the Veteran Administration is below.
When reached for a response, the CAVHCS issued this response:
Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) is committed to improving access to health care for our Veterans and takes that responsibility very seriously. Providing our nation's Veterans with the high quality health care they have earned and deserve remains the top priority for CAVHCS leadership and employees. CAVHCS leadership has taken substantial actions to improve wait times by hiring additional health care providers and increasing clinical space, as well as a number of other actions.
To meet the needs of Veterans living in the Columbus GA area, CAVHCS has both short and long-range plans in place to address current and future demands for Veteran health care. In the short-term, CAVHCS has already started a new collaboration with the Martin Army Community Hospital at Fort Benning to provide increased access to specialty services to Veterans in the Columbus area. In addition, CAVHCS is collaborating with the Department of Defense to provide approximately 19,000 square feet from Fort Benning for use by VA to provide care for Veterans. Plans are underway to relocate eight fully functional Patient Aligned Care Teams to Ft. Benning. In addition, this expanded clinical space will allow CAVHCS to expand primary care services to an additional 2,400 Veterans in the Columbus area by adding two new Patient Aligned Care Teams at Fort Benning. CAVHCS will also use this opportunity to fully integrate behavioral health services into Columbus Primary Care. In the long term, CAVHCS has also been approved to build a new 55,000 sq. ft. facility in the Columbus, GA area to help meet future increasing demand for health care services in the area.
In addition, CAVHCS leadership has taken a series of actions to improve wait times:
- Provider appointment schedules are being continually optimized to eliminate unnecessary loss of clinical time to administrative matters.
- CAVHCS increased the use of non-VA care to increase access and thus ensure that Veterans can receive timely health care in the community.
- Aggressive recruitment for additional Primary Care Medicine and Mental Health staff is underway. Announcements for additional Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Nurses, and Social Workers are currently posted on USA.Jobs. All available VA incentives are being used to recruit staff for hard to fill positions.
- A Chief Medical Officer is being hired to administer the clinical and operational functions at the Columbus Community Based Outpatient Clinic.
- CAVHCS continues to expand the use of Telehealth services. Telehealth brings technology and health care services together to increase access for Veterans. The Veteran and their health care provider use cameras over secure lines for their sessions. The Mental Health team at Columbus already includes psychiatry services provided three times a week through Telehealth services and further expansion of services is underway. The space expansion will allow five rooms to be equipped for Telehealth services.
- CAVHCS established a Telephone Center to efficiently address Veteran concerns and, subsequently, eliminate unnecessary clinic appointments.
Providing our nation's Veterans with the high quality health care they so deserve remains the top priority for the leadership and employees of Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System. At CAVHCS, our commitment to our Veterans remains our focus.