About 100,000 veterans are currently experiencing long wait times for care, according to an internal Veterans Affairs report released Monday.
The audit was conducted May 12 to June 4, and phase one included 216 facilities serving more than 10,000 veterans — including Temple’s Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Medical Center — at the request of the department’s secretary to review the entire system’s scheduling and access management practices.
Over the past couple of months, reports have surfaced about delayed care and falsified appointment wait-time data at VA facilities and the risk it puts on veterans’ lives.
The goal is for veterans to wait no more than 14 days for care. Monday’s 54-page report identifies this goal as “not attainable given the ongoing challenge of finding sufficient provider slots to accommodate a growing demand for services.”
Though the Temple facility’s spokeswoman told the Herald on May 28 “leadership is not aware of any concerns brought up during these audits,” the hospital is listed along with 80 other phase one sites in the report as requiring further review.
Documentation obtained by the Herald shows that employees of the Temple hospital reported to their union as early as 2012 that they were told to inaccurately enter a veteran’s desired appointment date to one that meets the 14-day goal.
The audit found at least one instance of this practice at 76 percent of the facilities visited. Overall, 13 percent of staff interviewed indicated they received this type of unethical instruction.
The “rapidly deployed” audit had three initiatives: gauge frontline staff’s understanding of proper scheduling processes; assess the frequency and pervasiveness of both desired and undesirable practices employed to record veteran preferences for appointment dates, manage waiting lists and process requests for specialty consultation; identify factors that interfere with schedulers’ ability to facilitate timely care for veterans.