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Pittsburgh VA Clears Up Backlog, Shortens Wait Times

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Congress was shocked to learn that at a VA facility in Phoenix, Ariz. 1,700 veterans had languished on waiting lists – and some had died awaiting care.

Here in Pittsburgh, the local congressional delegation decried a backlog of some 700 vets waiting months for an appointment.

"We're looking for an accounting," said US Rep. Keith Rothfus. "We're looking for an accounting of how this happened. How was management responsible for this, what was the missing piece?"

"I think we lost a little focus on the primary wait times in the spring," added David Macpherson.

In August, congress gave the VA an additional $16.3 billion nationally to attack the problem. Dr. David Macpherson, the Acting Director of the Pittsburgh VA Health System, says it's paid off locally.

"We've used those resources, dollars, to hire additional providers, additional support staff, including people to schedule to make sure that we're more on top of it than we have been in the past months," said Macpherson.

According to a study by the Associate Press, the Pittsburgh VA has cleared up the backlog. From September to January, at the HJ Heinz facility in O'Hara, only a 2.8 percent backlog and the VA Hospital on University Drive had a backlog of only 2.1 percent.

Those wait times are below the national average in the study.

"Rapidly the primary car, the staff additions, the support staff and the administrative staff and I stepped up quite quickly after that was discovered, and frankly resolved it in a few weeks to months," said Macpherson.

And vets we spoke with, like Bruce Saellam of New Kensington, say they've experienced no problems with the availability or quality of care.

"I've experienced no wait times to get appointments or anything like that," said Saellam. "Everything's been pretty quick."

And still Macpherson says the VA aims to do better.

"You know you're never completely happy with healthcare," said Macpherson.

They're pleased, but not satisfied. And although the VA in Pittsburgh doesn't have as far to go to close that gap as others, they want all vets to have access to the healthcare they need.

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