Durham VA officials give conflicting data

Jun. 10, 2014 @ 05:55 PM

Leaders of the Durham Veteran Affairs Medical Center on Tuesday said their data don’t match that of an audit report that suggests it takes on average 104 days for a new patient seeking psychiatric care to get his or her first appointment.
In a news release, Durham VA officials cited statistics from a VA national database that show more than 58 percent of new mental-health patients getting in within 14 days during the current fiscal year.
The VA’s data also indicates that the overall average wait time for a new patient appointment was 25 days to the first visit.
“We are reviewing the report in detail and continuing actions to improve wait times for mental health, primary care and specialty care at the Durham VA Medical Center,” said DeAnne Seekins, the center’s director. “We are heading in the right direction and have already made significant improvements.”
A federal audit released Monday stated that 56,000 veterans across the nation had been waiting longer than 90 days for their first visit, and that another 64,000 added to the system during the past decade had never seen a doctor.
Dr. Richard Weiner, chief of mental health services for the Durham VA, said the facility offers psychiatric evaluation services on a walk-in basis, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. It also has a crisis line for veterans.
“We make a special effort to assist and welcome veterans who are making their first contact with VA to seek mental health services,” he said.
The Durham VA sought to reduce wait times about a year ago by opening the Mental Health Access Center, which provides initial assessment, triage and support services before a regular clinical visit.
The Durham VA is evaluating the algorithm used to produce data for the audit “to better understand underlying reasons for differences” in the findings, according to the local VA statement.
Dozens of mental health staff have joined the Durham VA in recent years, officials said. They’re trying to recruit 16 more mental health providers and referring veterans to non-VA sites when possible.
“We have made great progress in wait times, but are not where we want to be yet,” Seekins said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but it is important that veterans know we stand ready to provide excellent care when they need it.”

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