the republic logo

Most Wisconsin VA centers beat out national average on wait times; Milwaukee, Madison lag

bug
Share/Save/Bookmark

MADISON, Wisconsin — More veterans were waiting long periods for care at the Veterans Affairs hospitals in Milwaukee and Madison this winter than they were in the late summer and early fall, despite a national effort by the VA to get patients seen more quickly.

The AP examined waiting times at 940 VA hospitals and outpatient clinics from September to February to gauge any changes since a scandal over delays led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and prompted lawmakers in August to pass the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act.

Wisconsin's 19 Veterans Affairs medical facilities did well as a group. Most reported relatively few delayed appointments, compared to VA facilities in other parts of the country.

But the VA hospitals in Milwaukee and Madison fared slightly worse the average. Almost 4 percent of the appointments completed in Milwaukee between September and February failed to meet the VA's timeliness standard, which calls for patients to be seen within 30 days. About 3.3 percent of Madison appointments had to wait more than a month.

Nationally, 2.8 percent of all VA appointments during that time period failed to meet the health system's timeliness goal, which calls for patients to be seen within 30 days.

HOW WISCONSIN FARES

About 1.4 percent of the appointments completed at all VA facilities in the state between September and February took longer than 30 days to complete. VA clinics in Kenosha and Chippewa Falls had the smallest percentage for waiting times of at least 31 days in the state — 0.3 percent over the six-month period.

PROBLEM SPOTS

PHOTO: In this April 2, 2015 photo is the main entrance to the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin’s 19 Veterans Affairs medical facilities posted lower appointment delays as compared to the national average, according to government data reviewed by The Associated Press, though the state’s two largest VA medical centers, Milwaukee and Madison, reported longer wait times. (AP Photo/State Journal, John Hart)
In this April 2, 2015 photo is the main entrance to the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin’s 19 Veterans Affairs medical facilities posted lower appointment delays as compared to the national average, according to government data reviewed by The Associated Press, though the state’s two largest VA medical centers, Milwaukee and Madison, reported longer wait times. (AP Photo/State Journal, John Hart)

At the Milwaukee VA, the number of patients waiting long periods for care has gradually risen since the summer. In September, only 187 appointments took longer than two months to complete. By February, that number had more than doubled, to 455.

Madison's number of delayed appointments also climbed. Hospital spokesman Tim Donovan said wait times vary at VA hospitals based on demand, and January saw an increased demand.

A VA clinic in Green Bay jumped from an average 2.66 percent in January to 4.1 percent in February. Clinic spokesman Ben Slane said an audiologist transferred out of the facility and a part-time surgeon resigned, leading to the increase. Slane noted that patients seeking services from each doctor were offered treatment options at non-VA hospitals.

WHAT'S BEING DONE?

Bob Beller, director of the Milwaukee VA medical center, said the majority of the patients with the longest wait times are seeking specialty care services, such as optometry and audiology appointments.

"The limitation is due to lack of providers, we simply can't meet the demand," he said, noting that the facility tries to monitor patients who've waited more than 30 days and does follow-up calls to see if they can move up appointment dates.

"We're working very aggressively to recruit physicians to create additional capacity," Beller said.

Jim Duff, director of the Milwaukee County Veterans Service Office, said wait times at the Milwaukee medical center haven't been an issue. "I rarely hear veterans complain," Duff said.

Donovan said the Madison hospital has added new providers and increased clinic space. He said the center also has implemented the VA Choice program, which allows veterans the option to seek out care at a non-VA hospital if the VA facility cannot provide a service within 30 days.

Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!

Story copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Feedback, Corrections and Other Requests: AP welcomes feedback and comments from readers. Send an email to info@ap.org and it will be forwarded to the appropriate editor or reporter.


We also have more stories about:
(click the phrases to see a list)

Category:

Follow The Republic:

All content copyright ©2015 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.
All rights reserved. Privacy policy.