JACKSON — Patients seeking care through the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Veterans Administration Medical Center in Jackson are waiting an average of 45 days for their first appointment with a primary care doctor, according to a wide-ranging audit released yesterday.
That’s about three times longer than the Veterans Affairs Department’s 14-day goal for seeing first-time patients, which the audit said was unattainable given the growing demand among veterans for health care and poor planning. The VA has since abandoned that goal.
A report released yesterday by the VA said the average wait time for new patients at the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System in Gulfport was about 48 days. The Gulfport facility was on a list of 31 sites the VA said will be subject to further review based on the assessment of site team reports.
At the Jackson VA, 97 percent of appointments were scheduled in under 30 days, and the Biloxi VA was 94 percent.
The audit showed that in Jackson, the average wait is 56 days for specialty care and 29 days for mental health. At Gulfport, the average was 46 days to see a specialist and 37 days for mental health.
The Jackson facility showed 42,698 appointments scheduled during the audit period, excluding survey and procedures. The audit showed 41,332 scheduled for 30 days or less. At Gulfport, the total appointments were 48,578, with 45,791 scheduled for 30 days or less.
Overall, the audits indicate that accessing care is difficult for newcomers, but that established patients within the VA generally had little trouble getting in to see a primary care doctor in a timely manner.
An audit of 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics found the agency’s complicated appointment process created confusion among scheduling clerks and supervisors, the department said.