Tampa Bay, Florida -- 10 Investigates has answers Wednesday to questions a lot of people have been asking about the Veterans Administration scheduling and waiting list procedures.
In May, the VA conducted an internal survey of its own employees about practices including whether or not they were told to falsify appointment data.
10 Investigates combed through the results and found more than 25% of the local Bay Pines VA Hospital employees say "yes" they did receive instructions to enter different appointment dates than the ones veterans originally requested. This is important because those dates were being used to track how long veterans were waiting for their appointments. Less than half reported using that wait list properly.
However in comparison, the James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa had a very small percentage -- less than 4 percent -- reporting the falsification of data, with more than half saying they were using the wait list as intended.
This was a very comprehensive survey which asked thousands of employees nationwide about how they were instructed to keep records.
As we previously reported, some of those employees were actually recording information on sheets of paper instead of in the official VA computer database.
There were also questions about how often patients were getting reminder phone calls about their appointments. Less than half of the employees surveyed at James A Haley reported making reminder calls and about two-thirds of employees from Bay Pines VA said they make those calls to patients.
To see a comprehensive report of all VA hospitals survey results, click here.
This was the response from Jason W. Dangel, public affairs officer at Bay Pines VA Healthcare System:
"VA is conducting congressional briefings this week regarding the Nationwide Access Audit, consistent with VA's commitment to be responsive to Congress. In mid-April, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs directed the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to complete a nation-wide Access Audit to ensure a full understanding of VA's policy among scheduling staff, identify any inappropriate scheduling practices used by employees regarding Veteran preferences for appointment dates, and review waiting list management. As promised in the final Access Audit report, published on June 9, 2014, each facility where there was any indication of scheduling impropriety is currently undergoing further review by either the Office of Inspector General or a VA team outside of VHA. VA will have additional information to share once those reviews are completed.
"At the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, we recognize that timely access to care is essential to positive outcomes and remain committed to improving health care access across southwest Florida as the Veteran population continues to change and grow. Across the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, we continue extended hours of operation at our larger sites, review those waiting for care and alternatives to providing care in VA, examine physician productivity, improve our scheduling capabilities, and provide telehealth and in home care where appropriate.
"Quality of care has long been a hallmark of the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System and VA nationwide continues to outperform other hospitals and healthcare systems. The Joint Commission recognized our organization as a top performer last year, one of only 104 public and private hospitals in the state of Florida to receive this status. VA's National Center for Patient Safety recognized the organization at the highest level this past year for our patient safety efforts.
"As VA health care systematically improves across the country, the Bay Pines VA Healthcare system will continue to provide safe, effective, high-quality health care to the men and women we have the honor and privilege to serve every day."