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Hawaii has longest wait for new veteran patients

June 9, 2014 - 12:19pm

HONOLULU — Hawaii has the longest wait time in the nation for veterans to get their first appointment with a primary care physician, according to data on wait times nationwide that was released Monday by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

New patients in Hawaii wait an average of 145 days to get an appointment at the Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical Center, according to the data.

Representatives at the Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical Center in Honolulu did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wait times at the center are better for established patients. Excluding new patients, just 3 percent of Hawaii veterans waited more than 30 days for an appointment.

Hawaii resident Bryan Trumbower, a 32-year-old Army veteran, said he waited about six months for his first appointment with a primary care physician at the VA center.

“They tell you that when you sign up: ‘It will be six months,’” Trumbower said.

About a year ago, Trumbower was diagnosed with a sinus infection but had to wait five weeks to see a specialist for further treatment. It took three weeks of phone calls to get an appointment scheduled, and then there was a two-week wait for an appointment, Trumbower said.

“There’s people out there dying on the list,” Trumbower said.

The VA has contacted 50,000 veterans across the country to get them off of wait lists, said Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson.

“This excessive wait time is unacceptable,” said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in a statement. “It is clear that the VA needs additional resources to match increasing demand for health services. Our veterans deserve better.”