CINCINNATI (AP) - Five Veterans Affairs medical facilities in Ohio scheduled most of their patients for appointments within 30 days, but the average wait time for many new enrollees to be seen was more than a month, according to a VA audit released Monday.
The VA says more than 57,000 patients nationwide have been waiting three months or more for initial medical appointments at VA hospitals and clinics. The data was released amid a growing scandal over long wait times for veterans.
In Ohio, audit findings show that the medical centers in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chillicothe and Dayton scheduled all but 2 percent of their patient appointments within 30 days, but the average wait time for new enrollees ranged from more than 25 days to nearly 53 days at some of the facilities.
The Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Center in Columbus scheduled 94 percent, or more than 34,000 of nearly 37,000 appointments within 30 days. But the average wait for new enrollees there was nearly 36 days with more than 1,700 waiting between 31 and 60 days and nearly 300 waiting between 61 and 90 days.
The Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center had more than 960 new enrollees waiting between 31 and 60 days and more than 100 waiting between 61 and 90 days. The Cincinnati VA Medical Center had 670 waiting within 31 and 60 days and more than 260 waiting more than two months.
The Cleveland and Cincinnati medical centers were among 81 sites from 216 visited in the first phase of the audit that the VA has said will require further review. The VA said the initial assessment of sites requiring further review was based on a review of responses by front-line staff to questions contained in site audit reports.
Messages seeking comment from the Cleveland and Cincinnati facilities were not immediately returned. The Columbus center referred calls for comment to the VA's national office.
The department says the audit of 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics found that the agency's complicated appointment process created confusion among scheduling clerks and supervisors.
Harry Prestanski, a Vietnam veteran and executive director of Ohio Veterans United, said he was concerned by the audit findings nationally and in Ohio.
"It's disturbing that wait times are so long," he said.
But Prestanski said he is even more concerned because he believes too many veterans do not live within easy access of existing VA centers to get treatment.
"I think they should find a way to let veterans use their health benefits at other hospitals instead of building more brick and mortar VA monuments," he said.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.