Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center
VA data: Augusta shows improvement in three crucial access areas
September 9, 2016
Veterans access to primary care, specialty care, mental health services at Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center all improved during July, according to data recently released by the Department of Veterans.
Made public through the Veterans Health Administration Patient Access Data web page Aug. 25, data for “Completed Appointments” showed a 2.5 percent increase in percentage of patients seen within 30 days, best in its network. In addition, wait time for mental health services decreased by more than four days and wait time for specialty care saw a one-day decrease.
Maria Andrews, medical center director for VA Augusta, said the strides her team has made are great ones, but there’s more work to be done.
“My team has done excellent work to bolster access in these areas, and my hat is off to them. We won’t rest until Veterans have the access to care they deserve. That means a multi-faceted solution including hiring more clinical and support staff, closely examining our own processes to slash inefficiencies, and raising our standards higher at every turn.
“I’m excited about our future and what we can accomplish,” Andrews continued. “We want Veterans to be able to say ‘this is my VA’ proudly about their access to care and every other facet of this organization.”
In July, 24,707 appointments – almost 94 percent – were completed in 30 days or less. Average wait time in primary care was about nine days; in specialty care about nine days and mental health average waiting time was about two and a half days. In the past three months, VA Augusta has averaged about 29,000 appointments each month.
At the Aiken, S.C., clinic, more than 97 percent of appointments were completed in 30 days or less. At the Athens clinic, that number was above 95 percent.
“My teams have made great strides to get this effort moving in the right direction,” said Dr. Oladipo Kukoyi, VA Augusta chief of staff. “These numbers translate into the ability to serve more Veterans in a timely manner when needed and, as we know, we serve people and not numbers.”
VA Augusta Chief of Health Administration Service Holley Niethammer and her team oversee much of the effort scheduling appointments for Veterans. She praised her team’s effort and noted that they are continuing to work on ways to create faster access to VA care.
“There’s been a concerted effort on all fronts to make this work. Everyone who is a part of this process knows the importance of what we do and why we do it – for the care of our Veterans,” Niethammer said. “These improvements are a testament to their hard work in concert with other areas of the medical center, and I couldn’t be prouder.”
Nationally, the VA completed more than 57.46 million appointments from Aug. 1, 2015 through July 31, about 172,000 appointments each day, and an increase of 825,601 more appointments completed during the same time period a year before.
Regularly updated patient access data is available for all VA Medical Centers and Community-Based Outpatient Clinics including average wait times, number of patients waiting for a scheduled appointment and number of patients that cannot be scheduled for an appointment in 90 days or less. Appointment data is available at http://www.va.gov/health/access-audit.asp.
(Story by Jason Tudor, Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center Public Affairs Officer)