- Associated Press - Monday, June 9, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The average wait for a new patient to get an appointment at one of Louisiana’s three major VA medical centers in Alexandria, New Orleans and Shreveport runs anywhere from 30 to 55 days, depending on the hospital and the type of care sought, data released Monday by the Veterans Affairs Department shows.

More than 1,500 new patients were unable to get an appointment in 90 days or less: 693 in Alexandria, 424 in New Orleans and five in Shreveport.

The average wait times at the three facilities were not the nation’s worst for new patients but they exceeded the now-abandoned goal of 14 days set by the VA.

In Alexandria, the average wait is 33 days for a primary care appointment, 55 days for specialty care and 32 days for mental health, the figures showed.

In New Orleans, that average is 52 days for primary, 45 for specialty and 27 for mental health appointments.

In Shreveport, the average is 44 days for primary, 47 for specialty and 31 for mental health appointments.

At Alexandria, the report said, 137 new patients waited for an appointment more than 120 days.

The findings are from a nationwide audit of 731 VA hospitals and outpatient clinics. The report indicated all three hospitals are in for a harder look, listing all three sites as requiring further review, “based on a review of qualitative responses by front-line staff to questions contained in site audit reports.”

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La, issued a statement calling for a review of all VA facilities in Louisiana. “The extremely long wait times at Louisiana VA facilities found in today’s report are completely unacceptable and have further broken the trust of our veterans,” the statement said.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., also commented. “This audit on wait times just proves the exact sentiments I’ve heard from veterans across the state, and why I requested this information in a letter to former Secretary Shinseki in May,” Vitter said in a statement. “President Obama and the VA need to take charge, lead, and stop the widespread crisis.”

Veterans already in the system fared better than new patients. The figures included percentages of appointments filled within 30 days when an electronic list of new patients was excluded. In Alexandria that was 92 percent of more than 27,900 appointments scheduled; In New Orleans, it was 98 percent of 34,781; In Shreveport, 99 percent of 44,001.



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