Average new VA patient wait highest in Madison

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Associated Press | June 11, 2014

MADISON — The average wait for a new patient to see a primary care doctor is nearly 51 days at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Madison, nearly three times the VA's own target, data released Monday as part of a wide-ranging audit showed.

The wait for new patients in Madison is the longest for anyone seeking care at Wisconsin's three major VA medical centers, the nationwide audit of 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics revealed.

The average wait for new patients seeking a primary care doctor at the facility in Milwaukee was just short of 24 days, while it was 17 days for the medical center in Tomah. Nationwide, the longest average wait for new patients seeking primary care was about 145 days at a facility in Honolulu. The longest average wait for new patients seeking specialty care was about 145 days at a clinic in Harlingen, Texas.

The VA has a 14-day target for wait times, but it has said that was "not attainable" given growing demand for VA services and poor planning.

A spokesman for the Madison hospital declined immediate comment.

Scott Farley, spokesman for the Tomah VA Medical Center, said he was pleased with its 17-day waiting period for new patients, but a lack of providers contributed to waiting periods more than doubling there for specialty care.

"There's only so many appointments available in a day, so if we don't have enough providers that's what happens," Farley said.

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