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WASHINGTON – Veterans hospitals in Upstate New York – including the Buffalo VA Medical Center – were cleared of wrongdoing in a Veterans Affairs Department audit released today that found excessive wait times and questionable appointment scheduling practices at some other such facilities.

Auditors visited the 216 largest VA facilities nationwide in May following reports that patients died waiting for appointments at a veterans hospital in Phoenix, which was also found to be hiding its scheduling difficulties.

Of the 216 facilities visited, 81, or 37 percent, were found to require further review – meaning auditors feel they need to probe more deeply into possible scheduling problems there.

The auditors found no need to do a further review of the Buffalo VA Medical Center or any other such facility in Upstate New York.

Nationwide, the audit discovered some widespread problems. More that 57,000 veterans nationwide have been waiting for medical appointments for more than three months, and another 64,000 veterans who enrolled for treatment from the VA have never been seen by a doctor.

The local VA facilities, however, largely performed better than the average facility nationwide in terms of scheduling appointments promptly.

The VA Western New York Healthcare System, which includes hospitals in Buffalo and Batavia, scheduled 97 percent of its patient appointments within 30 days of the appointment request. At VA hospitals nationwide, 96 percent of appointments were scheduled within 30 days; in Phoenix, only 89 percent were.

New primary care patients at the Buffalo and Batavia facilities had to wait an average of 27.61 days for their appointments, which is about half as long as patients in Phoenix had to wait. Those wait times were shorter in Buffalo and Batavia than they were in any other VA hospital in upstate New York.

Meanwhile, established patients at local VA facilities had to wait an average of only 2.01 days for an appointment.

New patients seeking mental health treatment at the Western New York facilities had to wait an average of 34.33 days for an appointment – longer than at facilities in Albany and Canandaigua, but far short of the average wait time in Phoenix, which was 44.78 days.

Established mental health patients at the Western New York facilities had to wait five days for an appointment.

email: jzremski@buffnews.com