- Associated Press - Friday, June 13, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The director of the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Veterans Administration Medical Center says while he’s pleased what VA audit had to say about his facility, the Jackson hospital will continue routine checks on patient care.

The Department of Veterans Affairs found in audit results released Monday patients seeking care through the Jackson medical center waited an average of 45 days for their first appointment with a primary care doctor. The audit found 97 percent of appointments were scheduled in under 30 days.

Jackson VA director Joe Battle said Thursday at a news conference a shortage of doctors has contributed to scheduling delays.

“Mississippi is a medically underserved state. We rank No. 50 out of 50 states for the number of doctors per capita, and No. 50 out of 50 states for primary care providers, so recruiting is sometimes a challenge for us,” Battle said.


It’s a problem some veterans said they see, too.

“Until somebody puts out some money and some doctors, the system is not going to work,” veteran C.C. McCullough told WAPT-TV in Jackson (http://bit.ly/1p15h5l ).

McCullough said he hasn’t always been satisfied with the care at the VA in Jackson but said it’s no one person’s fault.

“They’re looking for somebody to blame. It’s nobody to blame. It’s the system. The system is too old,” McCullough said.

Battle said the VA takes patient care very seriously and are working hard to turn things around.

“Typically, we’ve been able to get veterans in primary care within 30 days. I know the report said 45, so we’re going to look at the spike and cut that down,” Battle said. “I want every veteran who’s eligible for VA health care in Mississippi, to get it - that’s why we’re here.”

Battle said the Jackson VA was not one of the facilities on the audit that was listed as needing further review.

The audit showed the average wait time for new patients at the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System in Gulfport was about 48 days. The Gulfport facility was on a list of 31 sites the VA said will be subject to further review based on the assessment of site team reports. The report showed at the Gulfport facility, 94 percent of appointments were scheduled in under 30 days.