Wait times at VA Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus, which serves more than 40,000 veterans statewide, haven’t been flagged as concerning by watchdogs so far.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is being hit with allegations that long waits at the VA hospital in Phoenix may have resulting in as many as 40 deaths and a coverup. Other problems at VA hospitals across the nation are now also being looked into. Togus is not one of those hospitals.
At Togus, in the 2013 fiscal year, more than 98 percent of established primary-care patients — those who have attended the hospital before — got appointments within 14 days of requesting them, said Togus spokesman James Doherty.
However, new patients, comprising about 10 percent of the population, aren’t as lucky. Doherty said the average wait time for them went from 24 days in 2012 to 30 in 2013.
Doherty blamed the increase on provider turnover at the hospital, since new patients must be placed with doctors and go through longer appointments on average than those already at the hospital.
But, he said, if a health issue is urgent, the patient’s appointment is expedited.
“If it’s a new patient and they have a serious condition that they need to be in for, it’s not going to be 30 days,” Doherty said. “We’ll get them in.”
John Hargreaves, commander of the American Legion in Maine, said he hasn’t heard complaints of long wait times at Togus or experienced them himself — he’s a 60 percent disabled veteran who gets primary care there.
“I would say that we’re lucky in Maine,” he said. “Togus is a relatively well-run organization and in the long-term past, there haven’t been any significant issues.”
Michael Shepherd — 621-5632 | [email protected]