HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — While there’s been some improvement, Sen. Mark Warner says he’s giving officials 90 days to improve issues at the Hampton VA Medical Center, such as understaffing and wait times.
Hampton VA Medical Center Director David Collins says the wait times and staffing challenges run hand-in-hand.
“There’s kind of a vicious cycle of working providers really really hard. It’s a competitive market, they’re able to go other places where they don’t necessarily have to work as hard, so you get in this spiral of the staff not being here,” said Collins.
On a positive note, Collins says the staffing vacancies have dropped from about 800 to 720. He says the wait times have dropped but are still, on average, 42 days for primary care.
Warner says he’ll be back in 90 days and ultimately wants to see that number down in the 20s for days waited.
“I think under director Collins, we have a leader now who’s building out a team — that it’ll be my last visit with these kind of numbers,” Warner said.
He says the plans discussed Monday are solid compared to other visits he’s made discussing the same issues.
“My head’s not exploding today, as it has in other times. I do think the team has made commitments to improvement. For the first time in hearing a new plan, I’m hearing new initiatives,” Warner said.
Virginia Beach Police Chief Jim Cervera stood alongside Warner and Collins as they announced plans for a partnership with the VA Medical Center.
Warner hopes to get all the 757 police departments involved to help lower suicide rates.
“Police are the first ones to see an incident where it’s gotten to the point of potential suicide or potential mental health crisis. One of the gaps … we have is an individual who happens to be a veteran but they’ve not risen to the level of an emergency committal. What do we do? We’re now strengthening those relationships, strengthening that process,” said Cervera.
As far as the VA healthcare center in the works on the Southside, Warner says they’re still looking for sites. They’re hoping construction would be complete in 2023, with move-in 2024.