Source: North Jersey.com
After a year of troubling revelations concerning many Veterans Affairs hospitals, new data show New Jersey’s medical centers and clinics outperforming the national averages and getting far fewer complaints for delays in receiving attention…Clinics in Hackensack, Paterson, Elizabeth, Piscataway and Hamilton all ranked in the top half of clinics their size across the country.
New Jersey facilities overall did better than the national average by about 20 percent, with only one in 44 patients waiting more than a month for an appointment in the state’s 16 VA operations, The Associated Press found in a review of records from September through February. At clinics in Hackensack, Paterson and Elizabeth, that wait time improved to a rate of one such delay among 300 patients…
Changes in how the VA counts delays has caused suspicion among some veteran advocates. Kelly Kennedy, an Army veteran and spokeswoman for Bergmann and Moore, a Washington, D.C., law firm that handles veterans benefits cases, said the VA’s own rules allow it to define when a patient’s health care appointment is delayed…Sandra Warren, a spokeswoman for the VA New Jersey Health Care System, confirmed that the delays are counted after the clinician-set time frame has passed.
Few states in the Northeast saw high numbers of delays at their facilities and most New Jersey facilities reflected that trend. Among 14 clinics and two hospitals, only one, a clinic in Vineland, was worse than the national average, with appointment delays for one in every 16 patients. The national average is one in 36.
At a March town-hall-style meeting at the Lyons VA medical center in Somerset County, veterans mainly complained about rude staff and trouble with the new travel voucher system. But Ralph Corno, 69, of Edison said that despite problems elsewhere, he never had an issue getting an health care appointment at a VA medical center. Corno, a Vietnam War vet, has been a service officer, assisting veterans with VA questions, since 1991. The Lyons facility had one in 43 patients experience a delay of more than a month, according to the AP.
Separate data obtained by The Record found that of more than 7,200 complaint codes filed with the New Jersey VA from October 2011 to July 2014, only 211, less than 3 percent, were related to problems with appointment delays. When there are delays, Lieberman said, it’s often because of a shortage of specialists. Most of the outpatient clinics have low volume and rank well when compared with similar-sized facilities across the country….(T)he New Jersey VA benefited from the billions in federal funding released last year. In December, the system was granted an additional $3.9 million to hire 62 physicians, nurses and other staff to improve patient access to care…
An estimated 10,000 veterans in Sussex and Warren counties have no nearby VA facility, which is the biggest complaint Lieberman said he hears from veterans in that area. The VA is meeting with veterans to determine…if a need for facilities is established.