Long wait times at VA Medical Centers in Nevada
June 9, 2014
LAS VEGAS — Thousands of patients at Nevada's two Veterans Affairs medical centers waited 30 days or more for care, according to an audit released by the Veterans Affairs Department on Monday.
More than new 2,234 patients have been waiting 90 days or more for medical appointments at the VA hospital in North Las Vegas. Another 224 have waited more than 90 days for care at the Reno VA hospital.
The average wait time for new patients is about 50 days in Las Vegas and 53 days in Reno, according to the report.
Patients in Honolulu faced the longest wait, with an average of 145 days passing before receiving care. Patients in Harlingen, Texas, waited 85 days on average while veterans in Fayetteville, North Carolina, waited about 83 days.
The audit is the first nationwide look at the extensive VA system after reports two months ago of patients dying while awaiting appointments and cover-ups at the Phoenix VA center.
The review, which examined 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics around the country, found long wait times for new patients seeking primary and specialist care.
At Nevada's two hospitals, 221 patients who enrolled in the VA system over the past decade have never had an appointment.
Across the country, more than 57,000 veterans have waited 90 days or more for appointments and 64,000 enrollees have not seen a doctor in the past decade.
Despite the thousands of new patients in Las Vegas waiting 90 days or more, the VA found 96 percent of all appointments at the facility are scheduled within 30 days.
Of those, 55 percent of patients are seen within 60 days. Another 23 percent are seen within 90 days; 9 percent within 120 days and 14 percent waited more than 120 days.
At the Reno facility, 89 percent of all appointments were scheduled within 30 days. Among those appointments taking more than 30 days, about half are scheduled within 60 days.
Another 29 percent are scheduled within 90 days; 20 percent within 120 days and less than 1 percent take more than 120 days.
The audit said a 14-day target for waiting times was "not attainable" in light of the growing demand for VA services and poor planning.
The controversy over long wait times and falsified records at some facilities prompted VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign May 30.
To prepare the report, investigators for the VA traveled to the sites around the country in May and June, including visits to both Nevada VA hospitals and clinics in Fallon, Gardnerville, Winnemucca, Henderson and the Las Vegas area.
The VA flagged the Las Vegas hospital and a nearby outpatient clinic as two of more than 100 sites that investigators say need more detailed review.
Nevada's U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican, said in a statement Monday that veterans have faced poor management in the VA system for too long.
"The VA can and must do better to ensure that those who served our country receive the outstanding care they were promised," Heller said. "I am concerned that new patients are having a difficult time securing appointments, as well as the fact that ongoing investigations are needed at Nevada facilities."