News

Palo Alto VA positions itself within national scandal

Local hospital claims 18-day wait times for new patients seeking primary care

In light of the recent scandal involving false record-keeping and long wait lists at VA hospitals in other parts of the country, the Palo Alto VA is making efforts to encourage open dialogue about its stance on the issue, including a meeting this Thursday with local elected officials.

The Palo Alto VA system includes the Menlo Park VA campus and medical facilities.

The meeting, though not open to the public, is an effort to put Palo Alto ahead of the curve in the Veterans Affair controversy, spokesman Michael Hill-Jackson said.

"A lot of vets are concerned, of course, but not all VAs are the same," he said. "That's the message were trying to get out there: 'If you're in Palo Alto, you're OK.'"

A 35-page independent report conducted by the VA's inspector general released May 28 found that 1,700 veterans using a Phoenix VA hospital were kept on unofficial, secret wait lists, a practice that helped staff hoping to cover up delays in treatment of patients.

The report drew from reports of 226 veterans who had sought appointments at the hospital in 2013, finding that 84 percent had to wait more than two weeks to be seen. At least 40 veterans died waiting for appointments in Phoenix, according to CNN.

Though the report focused on evidence from the Phoenix hospital, it called the practices a "systemic problem nationwide." Similar allegations have emerged at other VA hospitals across the country, with 42 centers now under investigation for falsifying wait records.

As of April, the Palo Alto VA is four days shy of the 14-day national metric for new patients seeking primary care, with an 18-day average, Hill-Jackson said. For mental health patients, the average wait in Palo Alto is one week. Hill-Jackson said these numbers are updated on a monthly basis.

For established patients, Palo Alto accommodates appointments within five to six days, Hill-Jackson said -- though wait-time count for new patients starts from the date the scheduler makes the appointment, while the wait-time count for established patients starts from the date for which the patient requests the appointment.

U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, condemned what she called "longstanding and widespread" failure within the Veterans Administration but said the Palo Alto VA's high level of service and access should serve as an example for the agency moving forward.

"This longstanding and widespread failure is inexcusable, and, in response, I've voted for legislation in the House to address the mismanagement at the Veterans Administration -- to bring about accountability, transparency, and right this listing ship," she wrote in an email.

"I will also look to our own VA hospitals in the 18th Congressional District to lead by example. ... Veterans surveyed on their satisfaction with the Palo Alto VA consistently score it above the national average for all VA medical centers and in the top 25 percent in the region for access to outpatient care. More VA systems should be striving for this level of excellence."

A staff member from Eshoo's office will attend the Thursday meeting in Palo Alto.

The VA Palo Alto Health Care System consists of three inpatient facilities located at Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Livermore, plus seven outpatient clinics in San Jose, Fremont, Capitola, Monterey, Stockton, Modesto and Sonora.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 5, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

What should not get lost in this current controversy is that the VA provides great health care to the vast majority of the veterans entrusted to their care and that 99% of the VA employees are doing a superb job. I know this from very personal experience - I am an Agent Orange Vietnam veteran who was diagnosed with incurable leukemia 12 years ago. For the last 12 years I have received all of my medical care at the Palo Alto VA and that care has been superb. I make this statement with some personal familiarity with health care delivery having been the Executive Director of the Stanford University Medical Center.

Yes, let's clean up the current mess but don't overlook all the great work done by VA employees every day.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 5, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Peter,

I agree with you. Here's a relevant post by Phillip Longman in Washington Monthly that explains the issue well.

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by hypocrisy, thy name is...
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 5, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Odd that the ones calling the loudest for General Shinseki's resignation were the ones that filibusters a VA healthcare improvement bill earlier this year.

And as soon as Shinseki resigned, you haven't heard a peep from them about fixing the issues at hand, except for a few that want to push VA privatization.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by hypocrisy, thy name is...
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 5, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Never mind, as bad as McCain is with his flipflops: Web Link

"Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a Vietnam War veteran, announced the compromise on the Senate floor.
The legislation allows the construction of 26 major medical facilities in 18 states around the country and authorize $500 million in unobligated funds to hiring new doctors and health care providers. More facilities and more doctors will mitigate the long waiting times facing veterans. The legislation would also include a two-year trial program to make it easier for veterans to seek private care if VA care is inaccessible, as well as grant greater authority to the VA secretary to fire senior executives."

Let's see if McCain can get any votes from the party that had him as their presidential candidate a few years ago.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 5, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Mike - Thanks for the great article from Washington Monthly, he says it much better than I did.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ruben Fuentez
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 5, 2014 at 10:13 pm

I give the Palo Alto VA high marks for the care and attention I have received .
I recommend Palo Alto VA to all Veterans.This Hospital is the tightest run Hospital I have been in.
Lisa Freeman is on her Job.Don't Mess With The Palo Alto VA.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by WENDY
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 10, 2014 at 7:23 pm

VA Palo Alto needs to be investigated by the Office of Inspector General with the same rigor as all other VA's. The comment by Ruben not to mess with the Palo Alto VA and that Lisa Freeman is on her job is an assumption that cannot be made until the report is complete.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Patient
a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2014 at 7:34 pm

I take my brother to the Palo Alto VA system frequently and the care has been superb, far better than I've seen from private providers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Full Inspection
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 10, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Although the VA Palo Alto has a great reputation, it should be inspected to the fullest extent.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by The Past
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 11, 2014 at 7:37 am

My Dad was a disabled vet from WWII. The health care back east took care of him for many years until his death , in a VA hospital. It took emergency services: Code blue! too long to respond to his critical condition, while in their care. The biggest problem back then and now is staffing issues. They need more staff to accommodate these heroes that have served our county. Service at the VA relies on 2 classifications: service connected and non service connected. Service connected get the top service and non service connected must wait. In all these inquiries, I never heard what ones were service and non service connected? Maybe the service connected ones should be the only ones seen at the VA facilities and non service connected should be given a voucher, to obtain care from another non VA facility? Many countries...Germany as one! take care of their veterans a lot better than we do here. didn't they lose WW II?

Washington......needs to fix the problem now!


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