VA hospital starts same-day primary care for veterans

File. The VA Hospital in Fort Wayne.
File. The VA Hospital in Fort Wayne.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Starting Thursday, the VA Northern Indiana Healthcare System will provide same-day services for primary and mental health care.

The expanded services are a result of the MyVA Access initiative, which was launched to improve veteran and patient experience and satisfaction.

“This was in response to some concerns in centers around the country where access was a challenge, but as a nationwide effort, all the VAs are stepping up trying to provide for an appropriate measure of access for all their veterans for whatever care they need,” Dr. Wayne McBride, the chief of staff for the VA Northern Indiana Healthcare System, said. “But, we’re pleased to be part of that effort here locally and starting this week we do have now the capability and resources to respond to veterans concerns for primary care and mental health in a very timely manner.”

Now, if a veteran needs immediate primary care during regular business hours, he or she can get those services the same day. If it’s after hours, the veteran can get care the next day from a VA medical center or from another health care provider.

If a veteran is in crisis or has an immediate need for mental health care services, he or she will receive immediate attention from a health care professional at any VA medical center, the release outlined. A veteran who is new to mental heath care with a non-urgent need will get an initial screening evaluation no later than the next day.

“Prior to that, sometimes veterans would have difficulty getting a timely appointment and may have to wait for a period of time to get some needs addressed,” McBride said.

Tom Parsons, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, travels from Plymouth to the VA in Fort Wayne. He said he’s glad the hospital will now have same-day care, but he’s not unsatisfied now.

“I think all in all the VA is doing a good job. I’ve never had any trouble. This is probably the best health care I’ve had in my life,” Parsons said.

He and Navy veteran Bob Wise, who travels to Fort Wayne from Elkhart, are both looking forward to the new VA clinic opening in Mishawaka next fall. Wise is also happy with is experiences at the VA.

“It’s great. I get excellent care,” Wise said. “I couldn’t ask for more, so to speak. They’re doing what they can with what they have.”

The VA Northern Indiana Healthcare System said it’s still working to improve access to care for veterans. Wednesday the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also released a national update on the MyVA transformation.

The following report highlights were provided by the VA:

  • Veteran trust of VA is on the rise. In June 2016, nearly 60% of veterans said they trust VA to fulfill our country’s commitment to Veterans – a 47% improvement from six months before.
  • We are completing more appointments, faster. In FY 2016, VA completed nearly 58 million appointments – 1.2 million more than in FY 2015 and 3.2 million more than FY 2014. More of them are provided by a network of more than 350,000 community providers – a 45% increase in the number of providers since last year.
  • Processing of disability claims is faster and more accurate, too. The average wait time to complete a claim has dropped by 65%, to 123 days. We completed nearly 1.3 million claims in FY 2016, and reduced pending claims by almost 90%.
  • Urgent care is available when a Veteran needs it, and for non-urgent appointments, wait times are down. By September 2016, the average wait time for a completed appointment was down to less than 5 days for primary care, less than 7 days for specialty care, and less than 3 days for mental health care.
  • Veteran homelessness has been cut in half; it’s down 47% since 2010 nationwide, thanks in part to VA’s work with nearly 4,000 public and private agencies.
  • In the last 18 months, VA has facilitated dozens more collaborations, bringing in more than $300 million in investments and in-kind services to support America’s veterans.
  • Quality is improving. 82% of VA facilities improved quality overall since the fourth quarter of FY 2015.