(AP/WJLA) - Veterans Affairs medical centers have come under criticism for long wait times for care.
Now, they have released a list of the facilities with the longest average waits as of May 15 for new patients seeking primary care, specialist care and mental health care, according to audit results.
Like many of his fellow Army veterans, Bernie Gibson of Bladensburg says the Veterans Affairs healthcare system needs improvement. He explains how he had breathing issues, but had to wait hour after hour for a hospital bed:
"That's the first thing I was thinking was, 'Oh my god, am I going to die?' I didn't really know what was going to happen."
But the audit of the VA healthcare system released on Monday shows that as hard as things can be for veterans like Gibson, who are already in the system, things are even worse for vets looking for a first time appointment.
Two Veterans Affairs hospitals in our region rank among the ten worst for new patient wait times: Baltimore ranks fourth with an average wait time of 81 days, while Richmond is tenth at 73 days. The wait in D.C. is 39 days, which is close to the national average.
Tonight on Capitol Hill, members of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs heard the problem may be even worse than the numbers show, as officials testified that there is evidence some hospitals altered the numbers to make wait times look shorter than they really were.
NEW PATIENT PRIMARY CARE LONGEST AVERAGE WAIT TIME:
1. Honolulu, Hawaii: 145 days
2. VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend HCS, Harlingen, Texas: 85 days
3. Fayetteville, North Carolina: 83 days
4. Baltimore HCS, Maryland: 81 days
5. Portland, Oregon: 80 days
6. Columbia, South Carolina: 77 days
7. Central Alabama Veterans HCS, Montgomery, Alabama: 75 days
8. Providence, Rhode Island: 74 days
9. Salt Lake City, Utah: 73 days
10. Richmond, Virginia: 73 days
NEW PATIENT SPECIALIST CARE AVERAGE WAIT TIME:
1. VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend HCS, Harlingen, Texas: 145 days
2. El Paso, Texas: 90 days
3. White City, Oregon: 88 days
4. Clarksburg, West Virginia: 86 days
5. St. Louis, Missouri: 86 days
6. Middle Tennessee HCS, Nashville, Tennessee: 71 days
7. Durham, North Carolina: 69 days
8. Hampton, Virginia: 68 days
9. Mountain Home, Tennessee: 67 days
10. VA Central Western Massachusetts HCS, Leeds, Massachusetts: 67 days
NEW PATIENT MENTAL HEALTH CARE AVERAGE WAIT TIME:
1. Durham, North Carolina: 104 days
2. Clarksburg, West Virginia: 96 days
3. Amarillo, Texas: 61 days
4. El Paso, Texas: 60 days
5. Erie, Pennsylvania: 57 days
6. Central Alabama Veterans HCS, Montgomery, Alabama: 57 days
7. White City, Oregon: 57 days
8. VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend HCS, Harlingen, Texas: 55 days
9. Hampton, Virginia: 54 days
10. Dallas, Texas: 50 days