Sunday, April 25, 2010

Disabled Vietnam War veteran worries about newer veterans

200 new VA patients put on wait list

Saturday, April 24, 2010 at 12:02 a.m.

The San Diego VA Healthcare System has placed about 200 new patients on a wait list for appointments after being overwhelmed by an ongoing surge of veterans needing care and the administration’s difficulty hiring medical providers, the network’s staff said Friday.

The system is struggling with more patients because of the nation’s economic troubles and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It expects to resolve its scheduling backlog in about a week after adding three primary-care physicians and one nurse practitioner, said Dr. Robert M. Smith, chief of staff for the San Diego VA Healthcare System.

Although acute-care needs, including mental health and urgent-care visits, were not wait-listed when the staffing problem arose a few weeks ago, this is the worst scheduling bottleneck the San Diego VA system has had in years, he said.

“Our capacity to absorb new patients into some of our primary-care panels fell behind. But we are already hiring doctors to address the deficiency,” Smith said. “It was the perfect storm of the workload increasing and difficulty getting some of the primary-care people in place.”

VA officials also plan to temporarily assign 50 to 100 extra patients to some primary-care physicians, who normally handle about 1,200 patients each, Smith said.

Donn Dunlap, 63, of El Cajon, a partially disabled Vietnam War veteran and retired Marine first sergeant, had alerted the staff for Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, to the problem. Dunlap was unable to schedule a new-patient appointment after moving back to San Diego County.
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200 new VA patients put on wait list

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