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Hirono calls for Hawaii VA investigation

June 11, 2014
The Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP)- U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono has requested a deeper look into the wait times veterans are subjected to when seeking health care in Hawaii.

Hirono sent a letter Monday to the Office of Inspector General within the Department of Veterans Affairs.

An internal VA audit released Monday said that new patients wait an average of 145 days in Hawaii for an appointment with a primary care physician, the longest by far of any state in the nation.

Delays for established patients were substantially shorter, with a wait for an appointment with a primary care physician lasting 4.5 days on average, according to the audit. In a letter sent separately to Hirono, the VA stated that 91 percent of its established patients were seen within 14 days of their desired appointment date.

But Hirono believes established patients also wait too long based on complaints she's received from veterans.

"The information provided to me by the VA is not consistent with what veterans share with me and my staff regarding wait times," Hirono said in her letter. "Veterans claim much longer wait times."

Wayne Pfeffer, director of the VA Pacific Islands Health Care System, said he welcomes any external review that would help the hospital improve.

"Even before this became a national issue, we were trying to address it, and the numbers have come down," Pfeffer said. "The hiccup we're trying to resolve is the influx of new veterans, and the demand has been greater than the capacity."

A waiting list for new patients showed 1,900 veterans waiting for services May 15, but his staff has worked to reduce the number to the mid-600s, Pfeffer said.

They have been calling every veteran on the list and setting up new time slots for appointments, he said.



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