- Associated Press - Monday, June 9, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The state’s only VA Medical Center treats 98 percent of its patients within 30 days of their requested appointment dates, but more than 100 veterans remain on a waiting list to schedule initial visits, the Veterans Affairs Department said Monday.

An audit released by the VA is the first nationwide look at the veterans health care network since reports two months ago of cover-ups and of patients dying while awaiting appointments at the Phoenix VA center. A preliminary report last month found that long patient waits and falsified records were systematic through the network, and the uproar forced VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.

In New Hampshire, auditors who visited the Manchester VA Medical Center on May 12 found the average wait time for new patients seeking primary care was 19 days, higher than the 14-day target for waiting times but among the lowest of the 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics included in the report. The audit said the 14-day target was unattainable given growing demand for VA services and poor planning.

The average wait time in Manchester for new patients seeking a specialist appointment was 39 days, while new patients seeking mental health appointments waited 23 days. Wait times were much lower for established patients: one day for primary care, three days for specialists and three days for mental health appointments.

The audit also found 118 Manchester patients on a list for those who couldn’t get an appointment within 90 days. More than three-quarters of them had been on the list for more than three months. And another 98 veterans who enrolled and requested appointments in the last 10 years never got them, the audit found.

The Manchester center provides urgent care, primary care, ambulatory surgery, mental health treatment and other services but contracts with Concord Hospital and others for more elaborate surgery and inpatient care.

A spokeswoman at the medical center said officials were still reviewing the audit Monday afternoon, and the director of the New Hampshire Office of Veterans Services did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.



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