HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — The Hampton Veterans Administration Medical Center has the highest average primary care wait times in the nation, according to a report from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The report shows patients at Hampton and its associated clinics in Hampton Roads wait an average of just over thirty days to see a primary care doctor.
“Until we completely solve the problem and are able to provide convenient access to primary care services, we won’t be providing the kind of healthcare that we need to,” said Medical Center Director Michael Dunfee during a Tuesday afternoon conference call.
Dunfee pointed to improving wait times for specialty care, currently at 13 days, and stable wait times for mental health care at 15 days. But Dunfee has said that primary care is a focus area and that a veteran’s experience at the Hampton VAMC begins and ends with primary care.
By comparison, the national average for veterans to wait for a primary care appointment is seven days. Hampton’s wait time is more than four times longer. In Durham, the wait time is about 14 days; in Richmond, it’s about ten.
Dunfee said it’s hard to compare facilities across markets: “There are different recruitment challenges, there are different space setups, there are different growth patterns, there are different types of services.”
Plans for the next several months will enable Hampton to handle its ever-increasing case load of unique patients, currently about 48,000 veterans. Dunfee said plans are in the works to add enough space for 11 new exam rooms at the main hospital and twenty 20 new exam rooms adjacent to the current clinic in Virginia Beach. In addition, Hampton will add nine new doctors in the next seven weeks.
Overall, the Dept. of Veterans Affairs says it has seen significant improvements:
- Nationally, VA has completed 24 million appointments between June 1, 2014 and October 31, 2014, which is over 1.4 million more than completed in the same time period in 2013.
- From June 1, 2014 through October 31, 2014, VA completed over 653,000 appointments during the extended hours (nights and weekends).
- VA completed 98 percent of appointments in October 2014 within 30 days of the date the Veteran wanted to be seen.
- June 1, 2014, through October 31, 2014: the Electronic Wait List went from over 56,000 appointments to under 22,000, a 62 percent reduction.
Dunfee doesn’t see the lack of progress locally in primary care wait-times as a major setback, but instead a minor fluctuation over the last few months. He said his earlier stated goal of getting primary care wait-times to 20 days by this coming summer is still realistic.
The new numbers are part of an update on the entire VA system, as part of last year’s commitment to improve. You can view the entire report, just click here.