Dozens attend Fayetteville VA town hall

(Michael Hyland/WNCN)

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – Dozens of veterans and their families attended a town hall at the new VA Medical Center Friday, complimenting the site but also criticizing issues related to access to care.

“The time it takes us to get an appointment over the phone. You call, there’s 55 calls waiting ahead of you,” said Grilley Mitchell.

The VA recently opened the 250,000 square foot site with the goal of expanding health care options and reducing wait times. The Fayetteville VA has posted some of the longest average wait times for primary care in the nation in recent years.

“Our primary care wait list is down to about 20 patients right now because these are brand new folks that just signed up in the last day or two. So, we are able to see the veterans quicker,” said Elizabeth Goolsby, director of the center. She noted there are now 34 primary care teams at the medical center.

Goolsby fielded questions for about two hours Friday evening. The VA is hosting town halls quarterly following scathing reports on the treatment of veterans at facilities across the country.

“We just need the truth. It’s not being put out. It’s not being answered. Our voices are not being heard,” said Luther Wright.

Some veterans detailed struggles with referrals to care providers outside the VA system while others lamented the challenge of making contact with employees at the Fayetteville center. Goolsby said the agency is in the process of moving its call center to the new site, as the old one was not designed to handle the existing high call volume. About 35,000 calls per month go to the call center.

“And, we can’t improve the system because the IT closets are full. So, we’re going to move the call center over here,” she said.

Some veterans praised the new facility as well as the people working there.

“The VA has done me real good since 1984,” said Norvell Henderson.

Grace Hulon added, “There’s kinks we have to work out, but I’ll tell you what, if you use your head, you go after what you want, and you be persistent, you’re going to get what you want.”

The next town hall is scheduled for June 17.

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