ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Federal data showed Monday that nine veterans' medical centers in New York were scheduling 95 percent or more of their patients for appointments within 30 days, though hundreds were waiting longer at each facility.
The report from the Department of Veterans Affairs showed at least 91 percent of their patients would see practitioners within 14 days, which is the VA guideline for primary care visits. Hospital officials said some of the longer waits were for specialists.
However, the waiting times were far longer for new patients, ranging from 25 to 71 days to see a primary care physician and from 27 to 53 days for a specialist.
"Thankfully, the wait times at VA hospitals are a lot better in New York than in Phoenix and elsewhere, but even one veteran who doesn't get adequate health care, or has to wait too long, is one too many," said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.
The Brooklyn Democrat said Congress should pass bipartisan legislation to let veterans get treatment from outside providers if they have to wait too long for VA care and to make it easier to fire senior VA regional officials and hospital administrators.
An investigation found delays in patient care and manipulation of waiting lists in the sprawling VA health care system, especially in Phoenix, where critics contended that administrators concealed long wait times as dozens of veterans died waiting to get an appointment.
The new national data, collected on May 15, showed nearly 300,000 appointments scheduled at the nine New York centers.
Those based in the Bronx and the Hudson Valley, as well as New York City with campuses in Brooklyn and Manhattan, scheduled all but 1 percent of their patients within 30 days, the report said. Patients with appointments within 14 days ranged from 94 to 97 percent.
Monday's report also showed the centers in Northport on Long Island and Canandaigua in the Finger Lakes region scheduling 98 percent of their patients within 30 days, and more than 94 percent within 14.
The rate in Albany and Buffalo was 97 percent within 30 days, and 93.5 percent in Buffalo and 94.5 percent in Albany within 14 days.
The lowest rate for appointments within 30 days was 95 percent, reported for medical centers in Syracuse and at Bath in the Southern Tier. Bath's 14-day rate was nearly 94 percent. In Syracuse, it was 91.5 percent.
Altogether, the nine medical centers had nearly 5,000 patients scheduled for appointments between 30 and 60 days later, while 1,700 patients had appointments 60 to 90 days later.
Mike Van Zummeren, chief business officer for the Syracuse center, said it's difficult to get some patients scheduled for specialized care in less than 14 days. "If the patient is emergent, we get them in immediately," he said.