Wyden raises VA wait time concerns


Wyden Press Release,

Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden are pressing Veterans Affairs about wait times at the Department of Veterans Affairs Community-Based Outpatient Clinic in Salem, which, according to a report by the Statesman Journal newspaper, is subjecting veterans to multi-month waits for routine appointments. According to the most recent information in the VA database, veterans who are new primary care patients will to wait an average of 80 days for an appointment.

“This revelation is deeply troubling and we seek answers on what proactive measures the VA Portland Health Care System is taking to remedy this situation,” the senators wrote in a letter to Darwin Goodspeed, director of the VA Portland Health Care System?. “Our veterans answered the call to service and we should be doing everything we can to ensure we meet our obligations that were promised to these men and women when they signed up.”

Specifically, the senators asked for answers to the following questions:

What strategies are in place to improve recruitment and retention for clinics that routinely have doctor shortages? Have these strategies worked? If not, what is being done to improve the strategies?

Does the VA Portland Health Care System require a doctor to reside in the community in which he or she is working? If not, what is preventing the VA Portland Health Care System from letting doctors from other cities commute to clinics that have doctor shortages? If there is such a requirement, is the VA Portland Health Care System considering allowing doctors to commute to clinics that have doctor shortages?

Please provide a detailed strategy for reducing wait times for veterans, particularly those transferring from other VA clinics, and what is needed to meet those goals.

Find the full letter here and below.

Dear Director Goodspeed:

I write today regarding recent reports that the average wait time for veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Community-Based Outpatient Clinic in Salem is an average of 80 days for new primary care patients. This revelation is deeply troubling and I seek answers on what proactive measures the VA Portland Health Care System is taking to remedy this situation.

While I understand that recruiting and retaining doctors in Salem can be a challenge, that rationale is hardly an excuse for the current state of affairs. Salem is less than 50 miles from Portland, and people in other professions routinely commute to Salem from Portland. Making veterans commute for care is unacceptable, as travel for many veterans can be burdensome.

Our veterans answered the call to service and we should be doing everything we can to ensure we meet our obligations that were promised to these men and women when they signed up. To help me understand what the VA Portland Health Care System is doing to shorten the wait time and improve recruitment and retention, please provide answers to the following questions at your earliest convenience:

1. What strategies are in place to improve recruitment and retention for clinics that routinely have doctor shortages? Have these strategies worked? If not, what is being done to improve the strategies?

2. Does the VA Portland Health Care System require a doctor to reside in the community in which he or she is working? If not, what is preventing the VA Portland Health Care System from letting doctors from other cities commute to clinics that have doctor shortages? If there is such a requirement, is the VA Portland Health Care System considering allowing doctors to commute to clinics that have doctor shortages?

3. Please provide a detailed strategy for reducing wait times for veterans, particularly those transferring from other VA clinics, and what is needed to meet those goals.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter, I look forward to your responses to these questions. My office stands ready to work with your team to help address this situation so that our state’s veterans can receive the timely care they have earned. If I or my office can be helpful in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Sincerely,

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