SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - After allegations surfaced about veterans dying from lack of care at the Phoenix VA hospital, and the alleged cover-up there and at other VA hospitals across the country, an audit was done to see how wide spread the problem.
According to the Veterans Affairs audit of 731 VA hospital systems released Monday, new patients seeking care at the VA Medical Center in
"We have known for a long time that we've had access issues, both in primary care and especially in specialty care and we've never denied that,” said Jill Atwood Chief Communication Officer for the Veterans Affairs Salt Lake City Health Care System.
Overall, the report shows 92 percent of all appointments are scheduled within 30 days. Of those who had to wait longer 60 percent were seen within 60 days, 30 percent seen within 90 days, 6 percent within 120 and 4 percent had to wait more than 120 days.
Long-time VA patient Vaughn Smith says he's had great care at the VA and offers this explanation for the long wait times.
"The only thing I can think of is there's been a big increase in their work load in just the last 5 years or so because a lot of veterans didn't even know they had these benefits and so they've been bombarded with all these new cases,” said Smith.
Atwood says that's just about right. "We are enrolling 5 to 6 veterans a day. They are coming in quicker than we can keep up with them."
The Salt Lake VA Health System didn't need the audit to tell them they have access issues. They started working on ways to get more veterans seen in a timely manner two years ago.
Atwood said, "We've instituted Saturday clinics which we've now expanded from 8 to 2 p.m. every single Saturday, and we have expanded our clinics Monday through Thursday and they now run until 7 o'clock."
That’s great news for Smith, who's one of just 51,000 veterans currently in
"They've been great for me,” said Smith. “I mean I’ve had no problems at all."
Through this entire process, the Salt Lake City VA Health Care System was confident that they weren't having the same issues that we're seeing in phoenix and other places. They've followed all the scheduling guidelines and that's why, Atwood says, they're not one of the 81 hospital systems the VA is going back and taking another look at.
The Salt Lake City VA Health Care system has also begun contacting all veterans on their wait list to get them seen as soon as possible even if that means being seen by an outside doctor.
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