Editor’s Note: In a story June 9 about veterans health care in Colorado , The Associated Press misidentified a spokesman for the Veterans Affairs medical system in eastern Colorado. His name is Daniel Warvi, not Paul Warvi. A corrected version of the story is below:
DENVER (AP) — More than 1,600 new patients had to wait 90 days or longer for appointments at eastern Colorado Veterans Affairs medical centers, according to a department audit released Monday.
The report also showed that as many as 115 patients faced the prolonged waits at western Colorado facilities — despite the department’s stated 14-day goal.
The findings were based on an audit of 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics nationwide on a single day in May. A total of more than 57,000 patients faced delays of 90 days or longer, the report said. The review also indicated that 13 percent of schedulers reported being told by supervisors to falsify appointment schedules to make patient waits appear shorter.
VA officials now say the 14-day target was unattainable given existing resources and growing demand.
Colorado officials blamed delays on rapid growth in the number of new veterans enrolling in the system and periodic shortages of doctors and other providers.
“We’re one of the fastest-growing VAs in the United States,” said eastern Colorado VA system spokesman Daniel Warvi.
He said the 1,600 patients on the 90-day-plus list represent only 2.5 percent of the more than 66,000 appointments scheduled that day but said it was still a significant number.
The western Colorado system was short-staffed on the day of the audit but has been aggressively recruiting more providers, spokesman Paul Sweeney said.
The eastern Colorado system includes a medical center in Denver and 10 satellite clinics. The western Colorado system includes a Grand Junction medical center and five clinics.
The Grand Junction hospital and an outpatient clinic in Colorado Springs will get follow-up reviews based on the findings of inspections in May, the report said.
The Colorado Springs review was prompted by three anonymous reports that staffers were pressured to alter records of wait times, Warvi said.
Grand Junction VA officials haven’t been told the reason for the follow-up, Sweeney said.
A VA clinic in Fort Collins was not listed for a follow-up review, even though investigators have said employees there were instructed to falsify appointment records.
However, the Fort Collins facility reports to the VA hospital in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and that hospital is in line for a follow-up review.
Cheyenne VA spokeswoman Patricia Hill said she couldn’t comment without reviewing the findings.
More than 700 patients never got appointments at the eastern Colorado facilities after enrolling and requesting them.
Warvi said VA officials are looking into the reasons. Some might have been soldiers from Fort Carson who asked for appointments as they were leaving the Army but then moved to another state, he said.
The report said 26 patients never got appointments in the western Colorado system, the report said.
Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, called the audit results unacceptable. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said he will co-sponsor a bipartisan measure to expand veterans’ access to medical care and make it easier to fire employees for mismanagement. Udall serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
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– By Dan Elliott, AP Writer
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