Many surg­eries at VA de­layed

An anes­the­si­ol­o­gist short­age is af­fect­ing the hospi­tal noted for its long wait­ing lists.

The Denver Post - - NEWS | DENVER & THE WEST - By David Migoya

A short­age of anes­the­si­ol­o­gists at Den­ver’s vet­er­ans hospi­tal — de­spite salary of­fers reach­ing as high as $400,000 a year — has forced a de­lay in dozens of surg­eries just months af­ter the in­sti­tu­tion was tagged with some of the na­tion’s worst wait­ing lists for care.

Though the hospi­tal em­ploys eight anes­the­si­ol­o­gists and eight nurse anes­thetists, they’re short of the com­ple­ment needed to meet surgery de­mands that run about 380 op­er­a­tions a month, a spokes­woman said, not­ing some staffers have left for other jobs as well as taken pa­ter­nity and ma­ter­nity leaves.

“Cur­rently we have had ap­prox­i­mately 65 to 90 none­mer­gent surg­eries resched­uled or post­poned due to a short­age of anes­the­si­ol­ogy staff,” VA spokes­woman Kris­ten Sch­abert said. She of­fered no ex­am­ples.

VA data show the av­er­age wait time for new-pa­tient sur­gi­cal ap­point­ments at the seven fa­cil­i­ties that make up the East­ern Colorado Health Care Sys­tem dur­ing the 2017 fis­cal year that ended Sept. 30 is about 21.6 days, which is slightly bet­ter than the na­tional av­er­age of 22.7 days. The av­er­age wait time at just the Den­ver fa­cil­ity is 18.6 days.

VA’s wait­ing time in fis­cal 2017 for surgery for es­tab­lished pa­tients is 9.5 days, longer than the na­tional av­er­age of 5.8 days, ac­cord­ing to the VA. It is 8.3 days at the Den­ver fa­cil­ity.

The lat­est sit­u­a­tion was first re­ported by FOX-31 News, and it’s an ex­ten­sion of a prob­lem that’s plagued the Den­ver fa­cil­ity since the sum­mer.

In July, The Den­ver Post re­ported that wait times for pri­mary care med­i­cal ap­point­ments at vet­er­ans fa­cil­i­ties in east­ern Colorado and the Den­ver area were among the worst in the na­tion, and that Front Range vet­er­ans have seen lit­tle im­prove­ment in the three years since a na­tional scan­dal erupted over the prob­lem.

Colorado con­gress­men as­sailed the agency for its con­tin­ued — and wors­en­ing — is­sues over vet­eran care, es­pe­cially af­ter the VA bat­tled other con­tro­ver­sies such as the mas­sive de­lays and cost over­runs in con­struct­ing a new $1.7 bil­lion fa­cil­ity in Aurora, which is ex­pected to open in the spring.

Of­fi­cials of VA’s East­ern Colorado Health Care Sys­tem at the time said crit­i­cal short­ages in med­i­cal per­son­nel – in­clud­ing the doc­tors and nurses that are at the root of the surgery de­lays faced to­day – made it dif­fi­cult to keep up with the grow­ing de­mand Colorado has seen from an in­creas­ing vet­eran pop­u­la­tion.

Some­times, chief of staff Dr. El-

len Man­gione said, vet­er­ans would rather wait for a fa­mil­iar face at the VA than be seen more im­me­di­ately by a doc­tor out­side the sys­tem, even when given the choice to do so.

The east­ern sys­tem had a 16 per­cent va­cancy rate — there were 336 physi­cians — dur­ing the sum­mer cri­sis, even though it was of­fer­ing some pri­mary care doc­tors as much as $200,000 a year in salary and ad­di­tional train­ing. Sch­abert did not im­me­di­ately have cur­rent va­cancy fig­ures.

“Our lead­er­ship has been sup­port­ive and we were able to up our salary of­fer­ings to re­main com­pet­i­tive,” Sch­abert said of the search for anes­the­si­ol­ogy pro­fes­sion­als, “but … Den­ver is a com­pet­i­tive mar­ket.”

Un­til hires are made, the east­ern sys­tem is con­tract­ing with tem­po­rary out­side physi­cians, known as a “locum,” to fill the gaps, Sch­abert said.

And the east­ern sys­tem is no longer among the na­tion’s worst wait­ing pe­ri­ods for an ap­point­ment to see a pri­mary care physi­cian, VA data show, although it still ranks high with an 11-day av­er­age com­pared with a 4.8-day na­tional av­er­age.

It’s been re­placed by the VA health care sys­tem in Grand Junc­tion, where the av­er­age wait for a pri­mary care visit is 18 days, data show. That sys­tem is nearly one-tenth the size of Den­ver’s.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.