Audit: Long waits at 2 Pennsylvania VA centers


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  • The VA hospital in Wilkes Barre, pictured, was found to have among the shortest wait times.



By KEVIN BEGOS

— Among Pennsylvania's Veterans Affairs facilities, Philadelphia's medical center has the most new enrollees waiting at least two months for an appointment, according to an audit released June 9.

The Philadelphia VA had 1,141 new enrollees wait more than 60 days for an appointment, while Pittsburgh had 443. But Pittsburgh had the longest wait time for new enrollees, at almost 60 days. The figure for Philadelphia was about 43 days, while Erie was 21.

The VA released the nationwide audit Monday, the first look at its network in the uproar that began with reports of patients dying while awaiting appointments at the Phoenix VA center. The audit found long wait times across the country for patients seeking first appointments.

Several other states fared far worse than the Pennsylvania clinics. The VA in Honolulu, Hawaii, had the longest wait at 145 days, followed by Harlingen, Texas, at 85 days and Fayetteville, North Carolina, at 83 days.

But the Erie VA was fifth worst in the nation in scheduling mental health care for new patients, at 57 days. Durham, North Carolina, was the worst at 104 days.

The Wilkes-Barre, Coatesville and Erie VA scheduled 99 percent of all appointments in under 30 days, compared with 98 percent in Pittsburgh and 94 percent in Philadelphia.

The audit found that several VA centers in Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, will require additional review and further actions.

Nationally, 13 percent of VA schedulers reported supervisors telling them to falsify appointment dates to make waiting times appear shorter.

Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said the audit showed “systemic problems'' that demand immediate action.


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