MONTPELIER -- The Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital in White River Junction sees about 98 percent of patients within 30 days of their making appointments, better than the national average of 96 percent, according to statistics released Monday.
That still left 532 patients from Vermont and parts of New Hampshire waiting more than a month for an appointment.
The medical center director of the VA hospital in White River Junction, Deborah Amdur, said Monday she was pleased that 98 percent of patients at her facility are given appointments in a timely manner. But she said there are staff shortages that can cause delays, especially for some medical specialties, and they are recruiting additional staff and extending hours as part of an effort to serve more veterans.
And, when needed, the hospital will authorize care for veterans from community providers, she said.
"We use it when we don’t offer the care in close enough proximity to the veterans," she said.
The information about the Vermont hospital was released Monday by the federal Veterans Administration after a nationwide audit of its health system. The data are a snapshot of conditions on May 15.
The audit is the first nationwide look at the VA network in the uproar that began with reports two months ago of patients dying while awaiting appointments and of cover-ups at the Phoenix VA center. A preliminary review last month found that long patient waits and falsified records were systemic throughout the VA medical network, the nation’s largest health care provider, serving nearly 9 million veterans.
The audit examined 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics. It found long wait times across the country for patients seeking initial appointments with primary care doctors and specialists.
The White River hospital, which was visited by auditors on May 13, was not flagged for further review by the VA.
Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said it was "a good record, better than the VA national average, but not good enough."
He said he has introduced legislation to provide VA hospitals with additional resources.