LEAVENWORTH, Kan. -- FOX 4 is getting answers from VA hospital officials about long patient wait times and falsified records to hide them. Hospital officials in Leavenworth say there are several factors that have caused long wait times of up to three months for about 60 of its veterans.
“There were some veterans that were probably mistimed and put into a wrong batch that shouldn’t have been sitting out so far,” said Jim Gleisberg, the hospital’s public affairs officer. “It should’ve been done a different way. So we found the human error is there. It’s inevitable.”
Gleisberg said the hospital discovered the errors when a team came in as part of a nationwide audit in May, one that found more than 57,000 veterans across the country have been waiting 90 days for a first appointment.
"So we’re giving the staff members some more training and we’re going to move ahead,” he said.
Gleisberg explained sometimes newly enrolled vets without urgent healthcare needs don't ask for a specific time slot, so they get pushed back. He said an influx of patients to a limited number of doctors is also to blame for the backlog.
“When I got here in 1998, the staffing we had for our medical doctors has not changed from then until now,” he said. “But we’ve had 10,000 more new veterans.”
Each doctor at Leavenworth’s VA hospital is responsible for 1,200 patients, Gleisberg said, and even if they could afford to hire more doctors, “There are only so many primary care doctors around.”
“And so we’re in competition with all the other hospitals to hire. It’s how many people are out there willing to work for the VA?” he asked.
Gleisberg said even if they could hire more doctors, more issues arise such as the need to build bigger facilities and hire more supporting staff. As for Congress’ recent push to allow vets to get VA-paid treatment from local doctors instead, he said that would help, but will also cost more money.