Fayetteville’s VA medical center has some of the longest wait times for care in the country according to a scathing audit released last week.
While Veterans Affairs administrators say they are taking action to cut down on those wait times, the Fayetteville VA and American Legion partnered Monday to host a town hall question-and-answer session with the medical center’s director.
The town hall was an introduction to a week of workshops at what the Fayetteville VA is calling the “Crisis Command Center,” which promise immediate doctor appointments for veterans who — in some cases — have waited months for care.
“I come to meetings like this because I care,” Fayetteville VA Director Elizabeth Goolsby said Monday. “I am a veteran.”
The June 9 report from the Department of Veterans Affairs says the average wait time for a new patient looking for primary care at the VA’s Fayetteville hospital was 83 days; the average wait was 62 days to see a specialist and 27 days for mental health.
One veteran on Monday said that he waited 11 months and 26 days for a routine eye exam.
Another said he was sent to the wrong facility, at which point the VA “said it would be another 3 months before I get an appointment. And I’ve been waiting 6 months already.”
Many in attendance wondered what Goolsby is doing to remedy the long wait times at the VA. While she said the VA won’t always be perfect, she hopes the Fayetteville VA can “provide the best care we possibly can.”
“I could have very easily not come tonight, but I want to hear, I want to know and I want to be responsive,” Goolsby said. “Will we do everything perfectly every time? No — I have 1,500 employees at 16 sites of care; we make mistakes, we’re human.
“But I want to provide the best care we possibly can. That’s my duty to you.”
VA guidelines say veterans should be seen within 14 days of their desired date for a primary care appointment. However the audit of 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics found the agency’s complicated appointment process created confusion among scheduling clerks and supervisors.
The department now says that meeting the 14-day target was unattainable given existing resources and growing demand.
Veterans in need of an appointment, those who want to get registered with the VA or those with any concerns are invited to the Crisis Command Center at American Legion Post 202 Tuesday through Thursday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. until noon.