Veterans wait twice as long in ED

Veterans on average wait twice as long as civilians for emergency department (ED) treatment, according to the Washington Times.

While civilians wait about 26 minutes in the ED, veteran wait times can last hours, according to a Times review of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Medicare records. "By the department's own count, the deaths of at least 23 veterans throughout the country have been linked to delays in VA medical care," said Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Florida) chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, according to the Times. "This is proof that the department's system for ensuring veterans receive timely appointments is in dire need of an overhaul."

Although the VA said veterans wait an average of one hour to see an ED doctor, it did not release hospital-by-hospital data, nor did the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. VA research indicates that ED nurses or doctors give veterans evaluations in about 12 minutes, but the average wait time for formal treatment is approximately 50 minutes, the article states. The department's goal is to have less than 10 percent of patients stay in the ED for six hours.

A recent investigation by the Office of the Inspector General found that as many as 25 percent of patients in a Las Vegas VA facility waited in excess of six hours. A Denver VA facility met the 10 percent goal, but some patients spent more than eight hours in the ED before discharge, transfer or admission, according to the Times.

The Times' review comes on the heels of the discovery that the Phoenix VA system secretly kept two patient lists, one falsely documenting timely patient appointments and a second, secret list designed to conceal that more than 1,000 veterans waited months for treatment. Forty vets died awaiting treatment at the Phoenix VA, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the Times article