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Cleveland VA Flagged for More Review after Federal Audit of Patient Wait Times

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The Cleveland VA medical center is one of 112 facilities nationwide that've been flagged for further review of patient scheduling. ideastream's Nick Castele reports on what local officials are saying about it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 9:28 am

Cleveland VA chief of staff Murray Altose says he doesn't know why Cleveland's been flagged for more scrutiny. He said he doesn't know of any misconduct at the hospital related to scheduling. The federal audit found fraudulent record-keeping at some facilities in a scheme to make wait-times appear shorter than they actually were. .

"We're not at all aware of any separate lists, and to our knowledge there has been no manipulation of wait times," Altose said. "We've reviewed our process carefully, we've spoken to virtually all of our schedulers, we've provided in-services to them."

While that doesn't mean no one made mistakes, Altose says, he believes schedulers here have been honest.

According to the audit, records at the VA in Cleveland show 98 percent of patients waited less than a month for an appointment -- better than the national average.

For new patients seeking primary care, the average wait was 39 days. The wait time for new mental health patients: 29 days. Those waits improve dramatically for returning patients.

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, who sits on the Veterans Affairs committee, says there's a deal in the works to help veterans get care outside the VA.

"When there are waits, if someone waits more than 30 days, they should be able to go to a private hospital, or to a community-based clinic, a federal qualified health center," Brown said.

The House passed a similar bill on Tuesday with no votes against.

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