The Department of Veterans Affairs launched a nationwide access audit last month after it was reported that patients at the VA medical center in Phoenix died while awaiting care. The scandal led to the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.
The audit found that in San Diego, 94 percent of appointments were booked with a wait time of 30 days or less, but new patients had to wait an average of two weeks longer. New patients seeking mental health services were seen, on average, in 34 days.
Established patients at the VA San Diego Healthcare System were seen within three to five days, according to the audit.
Nationally, the audit found that an “overly complicated scheduling process” results in “high potential to create confusion among scheduling clerks and front-line supervisors”; meeting a 14-day wait-time performance target was “simply not attainable because of a growing demand for services”; 13 percent of scheduling staff interviewed said they were instructed to enter a different date in the scheduling system than what the patient asked for; and pressure was placed on schedulers to make waiting times appear more favorable.
The national audit also found that staffing problems were discovered at smaller outpatient clinics. Escondido and Imperial valley VA facilities were flagged because of patient wait times and a secondary investigation has been launched. In 2008 problems at the two flagged facilities caused a supervisor leave. Now auditors will dig through electronic patient log books to figure out what is going wrong. Va Officials claim the two troubled clinics are run by government contractors, but employees told fox 5 off camera that there is a mix of VA and contractors employed on site. Signs at the Escondido clinic also claim the property is property of the federal government.