FAYETTEVILLE: Acting VA secretary to visit Fayetteville VA - WRBL

Fayetteville VA promises to 'redouble' efforts after stinging audit

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -

The Fayetteville VA Medical Center, responding to a national audit released Monday, said Tuesday that it is looking to add space to better serve veterans who need medical care.

The audit of VA facilities around the county has some bad news for North Carolina veterans using the system. Several facilities in the state have some of the worst wait times in the country.

A report from the Department of Veterans Affairs said the average wait time for new patients at North Carolina VA hospitals ranged from nearly 29 days in Salisbury to 83 days in Fayetteville -- the home of Fort Bragg.

VA guidelines say veterans should be seen within 14 days of their desired date for a primary care appointment.

"We accept the reported data as a call to redouble our efforts," the VA said, but said the commitment of its staff to serve veterans had been overlooked.

"Fayetteville VA Medical Center has experienced tremendous growth in patients over the past years, and our space constraints have proved challenging," the statement said.

"We have kept our focus on providing safe, high quality care and working with our Veterans to provide them the care that they desire at a time that they want. We recognize that our access to care for our Veteran patients is not at the goals that VA established and we are working on many fronts to bring our quality care to more Veterans.

"Additional leased space is being actively sought to allow for rapid expansion of staff into these locations. Staff recruitment actions have continued unabated over the entire year. New construction is in the works. We are expanding to the Lee County area with a new Community Based Clinic (CBOC), and plans for a replacement CBOC in Jacksonville will nearly triple the size of the existing clinic, are proceeding. The Fayetteville Health Care Center is rising quickly and we are moving forward with our Army partners in securing a site for our joint community rehabilitation center in Fayetteville."

For a new patient looking for primary care, the VA's Fayetteville hospital has the third-worst wait times in the system, averaging 83 days; the average wait was 62 days to see a specialist and 27 days for mental health.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-North Carolina, called the results of the VA's report "appalling and disturbing" on Monday and sent a letter to the VA's acting secretary Sloan Gibson urging him to address the problem and visit the Fayetteville VA Medical Center. She noted that more than 157,000 veterans live in Fayetteville and the surrounding 21-county area.

"They require immediate and urgent action by the VA acting secretary to reduce wait times for veterans, particularly those in the Fayetteville area who face among the highest average wait times in the country," she said. "I am also concerned that several additional VA facilities in North Carolina require further investigation, and I expect full transparency and accountability from the Department of Veterans Affairs as those investigations proceed."

Hagan said Gibson will visit the Fayetteville VA Medical Center on Thursday.

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