Sen. Warner finds several issues during Hampton VAMC visit

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va) visits with officials in Hampton Feb. 18, 2017 to talk Cybersecurity. Credit: WAVY/Erin Kelly

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – “It shouldn’t be this hard.”

That’s how Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) summarizes the patient experience at Hampton VA Medical Center.

Warner met with hospital management Monday and found several problems including a lack of space, outdated systems and 200 unfilled positions.

It’s the fourth time Warner has visited the hospital since 2014, when its wait times were among the worst in the nation. Wait times for primary care are nearly nine days at Hampton, compared with about five days for the national average.

The facility has seen other issues, including some veterans waiting months to get custom wheelchairs.

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Then-director of Hampton VAMC Michael Dunfee told 10 On Your Side in December that wait times improved drastically during his tenure.

“We are still not where we need to be but we are much closer to the national average,” Warner said.

Warner says a new scheduling system will be in place by this fall, replacing outdated software that’s nearly 30-years-old.

Warner says morale has been a problem in recent years at Hampton, but he’s confident in the current leadership team at Hampton.

Warner says the VA also needs to simplify the choice program. It was designed to provide better access to private providers, but Warner says it is too complicated and too similar to other programs.

The senator says his top priority is paving the way for a new hospital on the southside to relieve some of the workload in Hampton. It’s growing three times faster than other VA medical centers. He’s pushing bipartisan legislation to make it happen.

“A newer facility that can handle a large population of veterans where they can get quality care, across a series of specialties, we just got to get that done,” Warner said.