At Vancouver VA, 4.1% of wait times at least 31 days

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

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• One of 12 sites in the regional VA Portland Health Care System.

• 48,671 appointments completed September through February.

• 4.07 percent: Care delayed by 31 days or more (1,979 cases).

National VA system

• About 1,000 facilities.

• 27.5 million appointments completed September-February.

• 2.8 percent: National average of delays of 31 days or more.

• 30 days: VA goal is for patients to be seen within 30 days.

• One of 12 sites in the regional VA Portland Health Care System.

• 48,671 appointments completed September through February.

• 4.07 percent: Care delayed by 31 days or more (1,979 cases).


National VA system

• About 1,000 facilities.

• 27.5 million appointments completed September-February.

• 2.8 percent: National average of delays of 31 days or more.

• 30 days: VA goal is for patients to be seen within 30 days.

At Vancouver’s Veterans Affairs division, about 4.1 percent of medical appointments in a recent six-month span were delayed at least 31 days.

The campus at 1601 E. Fourth Plain Blvd. is part of the VA Portland Health Care System. The Vancouver division, categorized as a community-based outpatient clinic, and Portland’s medical center both exceed the national average of 2.8 percent for delays in care.

The goal is for patients to be seen within 30 days.

The numbers are part of a study of the national Veterans Affairs system initiated by The Associated Press following reports of long waits for care and mismanaged scheduling at some VA hospitals.

Portland VA officials have noted that patient growth in this region is a big factor in wait times.

The average growth rate in the VA is 2 percent a year, regional VA spokesman Dan Herrigstad said Wednesday. “The Portland system is up 7.3 percent within our 12 sites across Oregon and Southwest Washington.”

The Vancouver division — the region’s biggest site other than the Portland VA Medical Center — has played a role in that growth, Herrigstad said.

“In fiscal year 2010, there were 95,200 outpatient visits in Vancouver; there were 153,700 in 2014,” Herrigstad said. “That is a challenge.”

Staffing issues also are a factor, he said. The regional system is authorized to have 81 primary-care providers, and there are about 17 vacancies. New hires are slated to fill two of Vancouver’s three vacant positions.

During the six months analyzed by The Associated Press, the Vancouver division reported 48,671 completed appointments from September 2014 through February 2015; in 1,979 cases (4.07 percent), care was delayed at least 31 days. Most of those Vancouver patients — 1,785 veterans — had to wait from 31 to 60 days for care. Delay times also were tallied over longer spans: 169 veterans faced delays up to 90 days; 25 patients had delays more than 90 days.

Portland’s VA Medical Center completed 161,845 patient appointments in that same sixth-month span; 5,800 of those appointments — 3.58 percent — were delayed at least 31 days. For 4,499 of those veterans served in Portland, care was delayed up to two months.

Although it is not part of a Washington-based VA system, the Vancouver campus is one of 14 VA facilities in the state of Washington. They include three major VA medical centers, and Vancouver’s 31-day delay rate exceeded all three: Seattle (1.84 percent); Tacoma (2.04 percent); and Spokane (2.37 percent).

Portland VA officials are planning to accommodate Vancouver’s increasing patient population with a new 20,000-square-foot clinic.

“We hope to start construction any day now,” Herrigstad said.

Vancouver also is getting 13,000 square feet of new leased space, mostly for primary care, he said.

Nationally, the VA system completed about 27.53 million appointments in that September-through-February span; care was delayed at least 31 days for 781,547 veterans — 2.83 percent.