An employee at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Phoenix hospital just revealed physicians are blocking off open time slots so they can retain easy schedules, effectively increasing wait times for veterans, some of whom have waited over 400 days for an appointment.
Kuauhtemoc Rodriguez, a former Army infantry officer, has repeatedly brought the issue of physician scheduling to leadership at the hospital, only to be ignored. Now, he’s letting Congress and the media know exactly what’s happening at the facility.
Rodriguez noted psychotherapy physicians are putting a hold on large time slots and refusing to let staff unblock them, even though some veterans have languished for over 400 days waiting to see a psychotherapist. This process lets some doctors have between three to five hours of free time every single day by blocking off the hours of 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m., according to emails obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Since Rodriguez’s staff cant schedule veterans into open slots, these veterans have to be placed on electronic waitlists.
“When I first reported it, there were hundreds of vets waiting up to 400 days. Now we have close to 100 still waiting over 120 days for there first appointment,” Rodriguez told TheDCNF.
“My fellow Veterans deserve the mental health care that they earned and they should not continue to have their care delayed because MH psychologists want a cushy schedule,” Rodriguez added.
Not only do physicians block off large segments of the day, they also have astronomical appointment cancellation rates. In five clinics out of a total of 20, the cancellation percentages were: 33.33 percent, 35 percent, 24 percent, 11.43 percent and 21.05 percent.
“This process of blocking clinics to not see patients and then coupled with a high cancelled by clinic percentage for the providers can be interpreted as a gaming of scheduling for those areas in my opinion,” Rodriguez wrote.
Instead of being thanked for letting hospital officials know, Rodriguez says he’s been retaliated against, a depressingly familiar theme in VA medical centers across the country.
“I’m personally attacked for bringing this up and professionally denigrated,” Rodriguez wrote in one of the emails.
One VA physician attempted to explain away the blocked off time by saying the slots are simply future appointments reserved for patients in the middle of ongoing psychotherapy course, which may take as long as 12 to 20 weeks to finish.
“Just because there is no patient scheduled on a particular Monday at 11am doesn’t mean that the slot is not occupied,” the physician said. Another physician added schedulers can’t simply place veterans in open slots without follow-up slots also being open and available.
The problem with this explanation, Rodriguez noted, is physicians are also blocking completely open slots, in addition to these already reserved slots. Reserved slots are not even available to use in the scheduling system.
“Veterans who know the price that is paid for freedom…should not have to deal with this type of substandard care,” Rodriguez added.
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