By Gail M. Pfeifer, MA, RN, AJN news director
I’ve been trying to arrange an interview with a nurse in a leadership role at the VA’s Office of Nursing Services (ONS) for over a month now, with little success.
Granted, an excessive wait time for an interview pales in comparison with how long many veterans have had to wait for health care. Still, this has given me a tiny taste of what it must be like to enroll with the Veterans Health Administration for services: you can contact them, but you have to wait a really long time to even schedule a first appointment.
A substantive interview with AJN might have been a golden opportunity for the ONS to get out ahead of the story that has plagued the VA since the Phoenix scandal about lengthy waiting times at the VA broke in early May. (I did finally get a response of sorts. More on that below.)
To recap: The allegations in May that the Phoenix VA system had manipulated data about appointment wait times to hide the fact that veterans were not getting timely appointments galvanized public and Congressional attention.
But such problems in the VA health care system are not new, as a May 18th interim report by the VA Office of Inspector General makes clear, noting that since 2005 it has issued 18 reports on a local and national level identifying scheduling problems leading to long wait times and negative effects on veterans’ care. In 2010, the VA even established an Office of Specialty Care Transformation in the Office of Specialty Care Services to address veterans receiving “fragmented care and services, long wait times, and unaccepted [sic] delays,” according to that agency’s Website.
To be fair, it was widely reported this past week that long wait times have become “the norm” across the American health care system. Still, thousands of veterans are likely to have suffered, even in some cases died, because of the protracted wait times at Veterans Health Administration facilities. […]