Health care providers at the Pfc. Floyd K. Lindstrom VA Clinic were recognized for their work during a visit Friday by Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough.
McDonough, visiting the Colorado Springs facility for the first time, also discussed plans on how to respond to demand for veteran care that has more than doubled since 2010.
Data from surveys is published in a quarterly Veteran Trust in VA report. According to the latest report for January-March 2022, the VA-wide trust score was at 78%. Quality of care and interactions with staff were among the areas praised the most, while the top reported concerns were appointment cancellations and issues with prescriptions.
“What we see here is the Colorado Springs team doing things right, and they’re doing things right in the provision of care, ensuring timely access to world-class care, even in a remarkable fast-growing market,” McDonough said. “I’m super proud of the work here.”
McDonough said providers in Colorado Springs have expanded availability in recent years to accommodate more patients, but acknowledged that some demand remains unmet.
One physical therapist at Lindstrom who is an expert in women’s health has worked at the VA for three years and works more hours now, given that female veterans seeking care make up the fastest-growing patient cohort.
“(The physical therapist) works three full days a week and still has demand that she cannot entirely meet,” McDonough said.
Access is not a new issue for the VA. The Gazette previously reported on a slew of issues including care coverage and appointment availability for veterans seeking health care in 2020. In 2014, a VA-wide audit revealed that more than 57,000 veterans waited at least 90 days to see a doctor, and another 63,000 who sought care never received an initial appointment.
During his visit Friday, McDonough discussed long-term goals to meet current demand by adding services to existing facilities and expanding into new ones. Earlier this year, the VA made a recommendation to build a new full-service, inpatient VA hospital in Colorado Springs.
“The thing that we spent the most time talking about today is the challenge of our workforce,” McDonough said, citing a tight labor market for health care providers and mental health professionals. He said a top priority is connecting Colorado veterans with “world-class providers.”
McDonough praised one dentist at Lindstrom, who begins accepting patients for appointments 7 a.m. “I don’t know what it’s like in the rest of Colorado Springs, but I do know that in the rest of the country, it is not common practice to allow the veteran’s schedule, the patient’s schedule, to drive our access.”
McDonough stressed that VA decisions are driven by “critical” veteran feedback through surveys offered after every interaction. “We’re also asking that question to veterans every day and making sure that we’re responding, as that physical therapist is responding, as that dentist is responding, to make sure that our services fit into the lives of these courageous veterans who put everything on the line for us,” he said.