Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City has one top 10 longest average wait times in the country for new patients, according to a report released by the Veterans Affairs Department on Monday.
New patients wait 73 days on average for care at the Salt Lake City VA hospital. Patients in Honolulu faced the longest wait, with an average of 145 days passing before receiving care.
The findings are part of the first nationwide look at the VA system after revelations two months ago of patients dying while awaiting appointments and of cover-ups at the Phoenix VA center. The audit, which was carried out at 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics around the country, found long wait times for patients seeking their first appointments for both primary-care doctors and specialist.
In Utah, 447 veterans have been waiting more than 90 days for medical appointments, the audit found. An additional 792 who signed up for VA health care over the past 10 years have never been seen by a doctor, the report found.
Across the country, more than 57,000 veterans have waited 90 days or more for appointments, and 64,000 enrollees have not seen a doctor in the past decade.
Overall, the report shows 92 percent of all appointments in Salt Lake City are scheduled within 30 days. Another 8 percent, or 2,319 appointments, take more than 30 days to schedule.
Of those appointments, about 60 percent of patients were seen within 60 days. Another 30 percent were seen within 90 days; 6 percent within 120 days; and 4 percent waited more than 120 days.
The audit said a 14-day target for waiting times was "not attainable" in light of the growing demand for VA services and poor planning.
The controversy over long wait times and falsified records at some facilities forced VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign May 30.
To prepare the report, investigators for the VA traveled to the sites around the country in May and June, including visits to the Salt Lake City VA hospital and outpatient clinics in South Ogden, Orem, West Valley City, Roosevelt and St. George.
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