VA Making Progress on Hiring More Providers To Improve Wait Times
On Friday, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said the department is making progress in hiring providers as a way to reduce wait times at VA medical centers, Modern Healthcare reports (Dickson, Modern Healthcare, 11/7).
According to McDonald, wait times at VA medical centers have been reduced by 18% between June and October. Specifically, from May to Oct. 1, average wait times for first-time primary care patients fell from 51 days to 42 days (Daly, AP/U-T San Diego, 11/6).
McDonald did not reveal specific hiring figures but said he has been relying heavily on academic medical centers (Modern Healthcare, 11/7). According to the New York Times, McDonald plans to hire an additional 28,000 workers (Oppel, New York Times, 11/8).
McDonald has made 11 recruitment visits to academic medical centers since July, Modern Healthcare reports (Modern Healthcare, 11/7). To recruit students and medical residents, McDonald has been touting higher incomes and school debt forgiveness.
- Annual incomes for VA providers have been increased by between $20,000 and $35,000; and
- School debt forgiveness has been doubled to up to $120,000.
According to the Times, the higher debt forgiveness has been persuasive for many medical residents, who can have hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt (New York Times, 11/8). Meanwhile, McDonald said he is planning similar income bumps for VA nurses (Modern Healthcare, 11/7).
In addition, he said another way to prevent the "national train wreck" of the physician shortage is to increase the number of medical schools (New York Times, 11/8).
McDonald Considering Disciplinary Action
McDonald said VA has delivered to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs a report with "about 35 names on it," adding that he has "another report that has over 1,000."
Meanwhile, the last report that McDonald sent to the House committee on Oct. 29 contains 44 employees for whom the department has proposed disciplinary measures, ranging from termination and demotions to counseling and "admonishment."
VA in a statement said McDonald has taken "an unprecedented approach to employee accountability" (Hicks, "Federal Eye," Washington Post, 11/7).
McDonald last week addressed critics who said he has been to slow to fire employees, noting that his authority is not as broad as they think. He said, "The law didn't grant any kind of new power that would suddenly give me the ability to walk into a room and simply fire people," adding, "Our Constitution provides for due process, and we are following the due process" (Hicks, "Federal Eye," Washington Post, 11/6).
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