SAN ANTONIO – South Texas Veterans Health Care System held a State of South Texas roundtable meeting to discuss current and future plans to increase veterans’ access to services, community care and suicide prevention resources.
One of biggest topics discussed was patient wait times. Currently, just over 96 percent of patients have appointments scheduled within 30 days of their preferred date, which is a 2 percent improvement from 12 months ago.
"We do want to get timely care. I think the most important thing is based on the clinical need of the patient to get care as soon as they need it. If you have veterans in urgent situations, you want to make sure they get that care timely and that shouldn’t take 30 days if it’s urgent for that veteran," said Robert Walton, director of South Texas Veterans Health Care System.
South Texas Veterans Health Care System services one of the largest areas in the country. It saw 86,000 veterans and had about 1.4 million outpatient visits in 2016.
The Audie Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital is the first and only facility to have a fully automated system laboratory system. It allows a doctor to test a patient’s blood within 30 minutes, which means a veteran will have a more efficient visit with their doctor, and it also helps the hospital see more patients every day.
To keep up with the growing veteran population, South Texas Veterans Health Care System is also looking to increase its staff by the end of the fiscal year. It has worked hard to grow its provider network and has even increased patient referrals to ensure that veterans’ medical needs are met in a timely fashion.
Access to care is incredibly important, not just for physical health, but mental health as well.
"We’re praying that if the veterans don’t feel comfortable with us, they will go to the vet center. If they don’t feel comfortable with the vet center, go to any other veteran organization if they truly are high-risk for suicide. I really want them to come here because we can help them," said Dr. Nicole Braida, associate chief of staff for mental health.
Fourteen of 20 veterans who attempt suicide were not receiving medical services.
There are local resources available to distressed veterans, such as Family Endeavors Military Family Clinic, Grace after Fire, the University of Texas at San Antonio Center for the Well Being of Military Children and Families, San Antonio Vet Center and Texas Veterans Commission.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 or text 838255.