Old - DO NOT USE - The Coast News Rancho Santa Fe

Escondido VA clinic under investigation

ESCONDIDO — A U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs audit on timely access to medical care cited the VA clinic in Escondido for further investigation.

The VA Department initiated the nationwide audit in light of the discovery that a VA clinic in Arizona was reporting false wait times and actual access to health care appointments for veterans was markedly delayed.

The controversy led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki on May 30.

VA Department staff reviewed appointment scheduling practices and records as well as interviewed clinic staff of hundreds of VA clinics earlier this year.

The VA clinic on Pennsylvania Avenue in Escondido was flagged for a deeper investigation into its wait times, according to the audit results released on Monday.

A clinic in Imperial Valley was the only other location in southern California that was identified for additional investigation.

Veterans must wait an average of 43.77 days for their first appointment at a VA clinic in San Diego County, according to the audit report. The report did not differentiate data between the VA clinics in the county.

New patients wait an average of 34.5 days for a mental health appointment at a VA clinic in San Diego County.

Wait times for San Diego veterans who have already been to an appointment at a clinic is much lower at an average of 3.38 days for a primary care appointment and less than a day for a mental health appointment.

The Escondido clinic did not respond to requests for comment.

A total of 830 veterans were waiting to schedule an appointment at a VA clinic in San Diego at the time of the audit.

Through the audit, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is striving to overhaul the management of scheduling and access for appointments by reestablishing timeliness goals and integrating new scheduling software at VA health care clinics.

The audit is one part of the Accelerating Access to Care Initiative, launched by the VA on May 21.

“While VHA must assess and learn from the Access Audit, we are immediately redoubling our efforts to quickly address delays in Veterans’ health care,” said a VA Department statement on the audit.