Thomas Amabile will have cataract surgery Tuesday after a yearlong ordeal with the Denver VA Hospital, which highlights ongoing lapses in patient scheduling.
9Wants to Know obtained Amabile’s medical records from the Department of Veterans Affairs.The records show Amabile called on New Year’s Eve 2013, asking for a referral to an eye specialist. A few days earlier, he visited a LensCrafters to get new glasses and was told his cataracts had gotten worse, significantly hindering his vision. The optometrist noted, “medically necessary surgery recommended”.
“It’s blurry,” said Amabile, describing his vision. ” It’s cloudy. It’s not a clear picture.”
For a reason undisclosed by the VA, it took more than eight months for Amabile to get his appointment with the VA’s ophthalmology specialist. After that consultation in August, the doctor originally scheduled the surgery in September. However, that surgery was canceled due to problems with sterilizing equipment in Denver VA’s operating rooms.
“I asked them, when are you going to reschedule it?” Amabile said. “They said, ‘We’ll let you know.’ They didn’t let me know.”
After six weeks, Amabile was tired of waiting. He called 9Wants to Know for help in early November. After we contacted the VA inquiring about Amabile’s case, he received a call to schedule the cataract surgery for December 16.
“It’s not major surgery, but it’s important surgery,” Amabile said.
According to the most recently released wait time statistics for the Denver VA system, average wait times are nine days from the requested date for primary care appointments, 12 days for specialist appointments and 14 for mental health appointments. This includes data for both new and existing patients. Those timeframes are significantly higher than the national averages.
The Denver VA has seen a significant decrease in the number of patients on the Electronic Wait List, also known as EWL, since August. However, the percentage of patients who have to wait more than 30 days for an appointment hovers just above 13 percent, more than double the national average.