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VA wait-time audit flags Minneapolis, Rochester clinics for further review

WASHINGTON — The clinics are among 112 in the country flagged for additional review.

WASHINGTON — Veterans Affairs clinics in Minneapolis and Rochester are among 112 VA clinics around the country flagged for “further review and investigation” in an internal audit of the system’s wait times released Monday.

The VA audit report, which covered 731 clinics and hospitals around the country, didn’t detail why certain facilities are subject to further review. Ralph Heussner, the spokesman for the Minneapolis and Rochester VA clinics, said that the auditors did not provide any details to him or his colleagues about why that facility was flagged.

“We received the same information as the media at the same time as the media,” Heussner said.

Heussner also said that federal auditors have not communicated what further information they’d be requesting from the Minnesota VA hospitals.

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MinnPost asked Heussner by phone message and email whether the Minneapolis and Rochester facilities had been aware of any problems prior to the audit’s findings. Heussner has not yet responded to these inquiries — we will update the story when he responds.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs media department has not responded to requests for comment. We will update the story when it responds.

According to the report [PDF], wait times at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System were, in most cases, among the best at the eight clinics in Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas serving more than 10,000 veterans a year.

Of the 80,423 appointments at the Minneapolis clinic, 98 percent were scheduled within 30 days. Minneapolis had the second-shortest wait time for new primary care patients — behind only St. Cloud — the third-shortest wait times for established specialty care patients, and was among the top two clinics in terms of wait times for mental health appointments, according to the report.

Minneapolis was slow to see new patients awaiting specialty care, according to the report, with an average wait time of more than 50 days.

St. Cloud scheduled 97 percent of its 37,638 appointments within 30 days. It had the best wait times in the region for primary care patients.

The report only detailed wait times at clinics that serve more than 10,000 veterans, and it didn’t list results for the Rochester VA Clinic.

Veterans Affairs auditors determined there are more than 57,000 veterans nationwide waiting more than 90 days to see a doctor, including 25 in Minneapolis and 10 in St. Cloud. There are another 64,000 veterans who have enrolled in the system over the last 10 years who have yet to see a doctor. The audit found that the 14-day wait time target — which was the basis for a report Minnesota VA hospitals gave Rep. Tim Walz last month — “was not attainable” for the system. The VA said it’s contacting more than 90,000 veterans to try scheduling appointments if they’ve waited more than 30 days.