Appointment waits shrinking at Augusta VA

The Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center is making gradual strides toward achieving its goal of getting patients off waiting lists and into clinics for appointments.

The latest data released from the Department of Veterans Affairs this week showed that the Augusta hospital has scheduled all of the 133 patients who have gone a decade without requested appointments and that the number of veterans who waited at least 90 days for an appointment has decreased from 63 to 28 in one month.

The new information is part of an ongoing audit under which the VA continues to provide twice-monthly updates of how many veterans and newly enrolled patients still wait for initial appointments systemwide.

Along with reducing appointment wait times, the VA announced this week that primary care has been added to the services available to veterans through its Patient-Centered Community Care, or “PC3,” contracts, a key and evolving part of the non-VA medical care program, according to a news release.

Eligible veterans are already able to access inpatient and outpatient specialty care, as well as mental health, limited emergency and limited newborn care for female veterans following childbirth through the program.

“With the addition of primary care services, VA medical centers can now use PC3 to provide additional types of care in order to reduce wait times,” new Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald said in the release. “This modification is another example of how we are working to ensure veterans get the care they need, when they need it and where they want to be seen.”

The initial PC3 contracts were awarded in September 2013 to Tri-West and HealthNet and have been used as part of the non-VA medical care program to purchase care in the community. Additionally, the VA said in the release that reduced commuting standards will require that contracted providers schedule appointments closer to the Veterans’ homes.

VA Medical Centers have the ability to purchase non-VA medical care for veterans through contracted medical providers when they cannot readily provide the needed care due to geographic inaccessibility or limited capacity.

This additional option is available to purchase non-VA medical care when required veteran care services are unavailable within the VA medical facility, or when veterans benefit from receiving the needed care nearer to their homes. In addition, VA is reviewing how PC3 may be used to help implement the newly enacted Veterans Choice, Access, and Accountability Act of 2014.

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By the numbers

Patient wait-times at the Augusta VA (in days)

Patient typePrimary CareSpecialty CareMental Health
New394634
Established351

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs

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