McGuire VA Medical Center reacts to wait-time allegations - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

McGuire VA Medical Center reacts to wait-time allegations

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

A U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs audit released Monday found more than 57,000 new patients waited at least three months for initial appointments, at VA hospitals across the country. McGuire VA Medical Center is reacting to that controversial report. The audit states that our local vets wait an average of 72 days to get a first visit with some doctors at the hospital. Richmond ranked as one of the worst VA hospitals for ushering in new-patient vets.

"It makes me angry," said U.S. Coast Guard veteran John Towell. 

Towell says he gave up years ago trying to make an appointment for follow-up care at McGuire, after his battle with colon cancer. "For a long time, I made a lot of phone calls…(I received) promises of return calls... never got the return calls."

Ultimately, Towell tried again years later, and was cared for. He says after that, treatment went smoothly. However, the struggle for initial, timely care is unacceptable to many veterans and their families.

"It makes me wonder what the government is thinking about us, who have served... We signed a blank check for them," said Towell.

Darlene Edwards, a spokesperson for the McGuire VA Medical Center, says McGuire's own internal data tallies much lower, averaging about a 30-day wait time. Edwards also says the hospital is continually making improvements to accommodate a growing number of vets.

"Our facility has been working on this long term. I think we've been focusing on access and wait times, because certainly we want to deliver the best possibly clinical care, in a timely way," said Edwards.

According to the audit, investigators will be coming back to the McGuire VA Medical Center, to review and investigate. The VA Medical Center welcomes that follow-up.

"We would expect that. We welcome that. That's not something out of the norm for us," continued Edwards.

McGuire has already expanded treatment hours, as well as facilities in its four clinics across Virginia.

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