Is Shreveport's VA Medical Center taking care of our Vets? - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Is Shreveport's VA Medical Center taking care of our Vets?

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SHREVEPORT, La - VA hospitals are at the center of a nationwide audit after shocking discoveries revealed dozens of veterans died while waiting for care. In April, the VA acknowledged that 23 veterans had died as a result of delayed care in recent years. These include hospitals in South Carolina, Georgia, and Texas. And now, allegations that 40 veterans died while waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System.

Just this morning, Eric Shinseki, head of the Veteran's Administration, testified before the Senate Committee on Veteran's Affairs.  

In Shreveport, is our VA hospital taking care of our veterans?

At Overton Brooks VA Medical Center, Public Affairs Officer Sandy Franks says they're committed to getting their patients the care they need as quickly as possible.

“That's important to us, we want to make sure our veterans are taken care of,” says Franks, “And that's our primary reason for being there. We want to take care of veterans."
In Shreveport, Franks says when new patients request appointments, they're scheduled within 14 days, and seen within 30. From there, their own primary care team helps them navigate any more services they might need. “The bottom line is taking care of our veterans, and so if they have to go to a specialty clinic, we want to make sure they get into that specialty clinic as quickly as they can."

The focus of the VA hospital scandal surrounds wait times for simple medical screenings –like colonoscopies. In Shreveport, Franks says there's a system in place to ensure proper care is provided to anyone waiting for treatment. “If they're approaching their 90 days on the list, then we're going to see, are we going to be able to take care of them in their hospital? Or do we need to send them somewhere else?” Overton works with other veteran hospitals, and other community providers. If a patient is sent to another provider, their care is paid for.  And while the local hospital has received a letter saying that a face-to-face audit will take place, there were not specifics about when that would take place.  

But what about wait times at Overton Brooks' Emergency Room?

Franks says, “The national standard is that a patient should be through the emergency room in 6 hours. Now we've kind of put a local standard on ourselves for 4 hours." It's a standard they monitor every day. “We have a meeting with the director every morning. And if there is a patient that has been in the emergency room longer than 6 hours, then that's reported to the director.”

And like anything, patients must always be their own advocates. “If a patient has a consult, then we tell them, if your condition gets worse, if you're not feeling good,” she says, “get in touch with us, don't sit out there and wait."

If anyone in the community has problems getting an appointment there are several ways to contact the medical center.

Toll Free: 1-800-863-7441 Local: 318-221-8411

Patient Advocate Office: 318-221-8411
Ext. 5013 318-221-8411 Ext. 6712

For former POWs, the Former Prisoners of War Advocate can be reached at 318-221-8411 ext. 5238.

Other numbers:

Longview Texas Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC)
Toll Free: 1-800-957-8262
Local: 903-247-8262

Monroe Louisiana Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC)
Toll Free: 1-800-832-3525
Local: 318-343-6100

 Texarkana Arkansas Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC)
Toll Free: 1-800-571-8387
Local: 870-216-2242

 Shreveport Louisiana Veterans Service Center
Local: 318-861-1776

The local VA officials we spoke to had received a letter that face to face audit would be taking place, but had no specifics or timeline about this audit.

This morning, Secretary of the VA, Eric Shinseki, testified before the Committee on Veteran's Affairs.  His entire official testimony can be seen here.   In it, he mentions many improvements to care that have taken place in recent years, points to the large number of Veterans who rate their experience and care as positive, and reminds us of the large volume of patients seen by the VA system. 

He did not say if the current incentive program would be continued; the VA grants bonuses to executives and doctors partly based on whether patients are seen within 14 days.  This practice was begun to encourage decreasing wait times, but many say it has now incentivized the secret lists, giving VA workers a reason to conceal delays in care.

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