Local VA Touts Improvements in Veterans Health Care

Chicago Area Hines Veterans Hospital Sited In Mass VA Scandal

The head of the nation's Veteran Affairs health system wants to streamline the process for veterans seeking treatment in the private sector, which has been successful for San Antonio's Audie Murphy Memorial Hospital, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Director Robert Walton says the latest numbers show that 96-percent of patients see a doctor within 30 days of their preferred date.  That's the metric they use to determine what's acceptable.  That's up from 94-percent, one year ago

"You look at our referral pattern to the community, we have an increase, and that increases our access to care," he tells Newsradio 1200 WOAI.

He credits the coordination with the community for helping keep with an increasing demand for service.

When it comes to the numbers for mental health appointments, which are under the microscope, nearly 99-percent of patients see a doctor within 30 days of their preferred date.  The average wait, though, is two and a half days. Wait times to see a primary care doctor has gone from 7.4 days to four days in the last year.

In a rare White House briefing, VA Secretary David Shulkin provided a candid assessment of the health system that provides health care to the nation's 9-million veterans.

 "I'm a doctor and I like to diagnose things, assess them and treat them," Shulkin said last month. "Many of these challenges have been decades in building, and they span multiple administrations.  This is the time for us to really address these chronic problems that have affected veterans and in many ways have harmed veterans and their families."

Shulkin singled out two Texas VA medical centers, in El Paso and Big Spring, for providing lower quality care than nearby private sector hospitalsIn San Antonio, Walton says the goal is to get 100-percent of veterans to see a doctor within 30 days of their preferred date, but he understands if some choose to wait longer to see a VA doctor, instead of one from the private sector.

One of the complaints he hears often is that, while wait times are down, it's still hard to get a person on the phone

."We're rolling out a call center that will help get calls answered in a timely basis."

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