BIRMINGHAM - AL — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has released its audit looking into long wait times. The VA facilities in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa were not flagged. However, ones in Montgomery and Tuskegee will undergo further review.More than seven thousand interviews were conducted with clinic and administration staff charged with scheduling patient visits. It found the scheduling process was too confusing and complicated for clerks. The 14 day wait period for new appointments was not feasible due to a growing demand for services and lack of planning to meet that demand. As of May 15, more than six million appointments were scheduled at VA facilities across the nation. But there are 57 thousand patients still waiting to get an appointment scheduled and another 63 thousand who were enrolled in the health care system and had never had an appointment. In Birmingham, roughly 55 thousand appointments were scheduled as of May. Of those, less than one thousand patients had to wait longer than a month. New patient wait time was 31 days.Tuscaloosa's facility had seven thousand appointments set. All but 104 patients would be seen within the month. But the average wait time for a new patient was higher at 46 days.Montgomery's center was flagged for further review. It had a greater number of people (nearly three thousand) who had to wait for more than a month for an appointment. The wait for new patients to see a doctor was nearly 75 days.While the review continues, the VA will start scheduling training, implement an inspection process, and contact veterans who are waiting for appointments. Those veterans will be given options including getting an earlier appointment or being referred to non-VA providers.
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