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Local VA chief: No secret wait list - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Local VA chief: No secret wait list

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SHREVEPORT, La -

 No secret wait list of mental health patients needing treatment exists at Overton Brooks VA Medical Center, the new interim director said Thursday.

Yes, there is a list that is outside the official scheduling database that offers more flexibility in notation as mental health staff seeks to engage some veterans who may have lost a provider or previously declined treatment. It's an effort to better deliver care to those who need it. However, top administrators told media that of the 2,700 patients on that list, 400 have yet to be reviewed, contacted, or assigned.

The nationwide VA system is grappling with a scandal that alleges some veterans died while awaiting treatment. Among the allegations is that administrators at other medical centers, such as Phoenix, Ariz., kept off-the-books lists to help improve wait-time data that in turn allowed some administrators to collect incentive pay for meeting goals related to care delivery.

At Overton Brooks, a whistleblower told KTBS that multiple paper lists had been pulled together to begin scheduling veterans who had been waiting for mental health care.

Just this week, U.S. Sen. David Vitter released an internal email provided to his office that Overton Brooks staff were ordered to stop scheduling patients on that unofficial list. That “resulted in patients who could have been seen in August, now waiting until October for an appointment date.”

On Thursday, Mathew said that at Overton Brooks , there are now no patients waiting longer than 90 days for an appointment.

Mathew and other key administrators said they were proud of the care provided at Overton Brooks and cited a recent audit that found it one of the top performing VA facilities in its region. Later in the day, the VA expanded on that review:

"Within the 10 VA facilities located in the South Central VA Health Care Network, Overton Brooks is able to provide access to Veterans within 30 days at 94.64 percent which ranks #1 among these sites...  The audit team complimented scheduling staff at Overton Brooks (for their knowledge) of VA scheduling practices."

Another audit is now under way, prompted by the nationwide scandal. Reasons for why Overton Brooks was flagged for the follow up  investigation have not been provided.

Mathew and his team also said Overton Brooks is seeking to add personnel to its clinical  staff to further improve care. Visits are scheduled over the next week with both Vitter and local U.S. Rep. John Fleming.

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