Fed auditors to take closer look at Portland VA

Fed auditors to take closer look at Portland VA

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by KGW TV producer

kgw.com

Posted on June 9, 2014 at 7:33 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 10 at 10:04 AM

PORTLAND, Ore. -- An anonymous comment by a worker in the Portland VA system about scheduling veterans to see doctors triggered has triggered a follow-up investigation by auditors, according to a VA spokesman.

Auditors initially visited 216 sites across the country and determined 81 needed follow up visits.

Other sites in the Northwest that will be investigated further include; Roseburg Ore, Walla Walla, Wash, Puget Sound (American Lake Division) Wash, VA Puget Sound (Seattle Division) and Spokane Wash.

“We welcome anyone to come in and take a look at what we’re doing,” said Portland VA spokesman Dan Herrigstad.

He insisted the system has no secret wait lists, but admits auditors found some problems.

“We recognize there were some inconsistencies in regards to the standards of the VA. We’ve taken steps to make sure scheduling veterans is consistent across every facility,” he said.

The Portland VA covers 12 different facilities from Salem to Vancouver, the Portland Medical Center and beyond.

Many of the 85,000 patients it covers have learned to wait.

“Well, this doctor I saw today is the first one I’ve got to see in probably 8 months or so,” said William Dewitt a retired marine who lives in Lincoln City.

The national audit shows the average wait time for new vets getting into the Portland system is 80 days.

“We take this very seriously,” said Herrigstad.

In Salem, a new VA clinic is about to open with more space and more doctors.

“We are a LEED certified building,” said Melisse Kuhn, the project designer.

She said the new clinic will offer more specialties and will cut down on long drives for some patients who currently have to travel to Portland.

She said the design creates a setting that seems filled with nature.

“Everywhere you go it's light filled, it's airy, it's calm, it’s a very big departure from the cave that we've created at the other location," Kuhn said.

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