An internal audit released by the Department of Veterans Affairs Monday shows VA hospitals in Minnesota had some of the shortest waiting times for appointments for new patients.
The Associated Press reports first-time patients at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center waited an average of 28 days to be seen, while in St. Cloud the wait averaged 25 days. By contrast, the longest wait for new patients was in Honolulu, where it took 145 days.
Returning patients who are already in the VA system were seen much more quickly – averaging a three-day wait in Minneapolis, two days in St. Cloud.
For patients seeking specialty care or mental health services the waits were longer, but were again substantially less in Minnesota than at VA hospitals elsewhere in the country.
The audit detailed waiting times at clinics that serve 10,000 or more veterans per year. The Rochester VA Clinic does not meet that threshold and so was not included in the data released Monday.
But as MinnPost reports the audit flagged both the Rochester and Minneapolis clinics for further review, though it did not explain why. A spokesman for those clinics told MinnPost the auditors did not provide any details about why the facilities were flagged.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said in a statement that she was in touch with the director of the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, Pat Kelly, and is eager to learn more:
The Inspector General is doing a further investigation into the Minneapolis and Rochester VA health care facilities, and we need to ensure that this investigation is thorough and swift. I spoke with Director Kelly and he assured me that the VA would provide me with more information about all Minnesota VA health care facilities, and I will continue to push to get answers and ensure that our veterans are getting the care they need and deserve.
Find a pdf of the full audit here.
The Washington Post notes it found that 13 percent of VA schedulers said they were told by their supervisors to falsify appointment requests to make wait times appear shorter than they actually were.
Most of the data are consistent with what USA Today reported after an investigation last week.