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Local VA clinic working to improve access to care

At the Iowa City VA Hospital and its nine clinics, one of which is located in Bettendorf, 96 percent of veterans’ appointments were scheduled within 30 days.

In the wake of a wait-time scandal that has rocked the U.S. Veterans Administration, leaders at a local VA clinic said they're doing everything they can to improve access to care.

As the result of a nationwide audit released earlier this week, more than 100 VA hospitals and clinics have been tagged for follow-up investigations. None of the flagged clinics, though, are in the state of Iowa.

At the Iowa City VA Hospital and its nine clinics, one of which is located in Bettendorf, 96 percent of veterans' appointments were scheduled within 30 days.

Clinical manager Kevin de la Bruere said the Bettendorf clinic receives very few complaints, and that the vast majority of local patients are satisfied with their care.

The clinic frequently uses services like telehealth appointments, which allow local veterans to meet with doctors from around the country via video chat.

"We can do the exam here, and they don't have to go to Iowa City. It saves on crowding in Iowa City, and improves access for the veteran here," said David Lyons, an LPN who serves as a technical clinical technician.

Lyons says the virtual exams are more convenient for veterans, and cut down on travel, cost and wait times.

"We are always trying to look at ways that we can improve the amount of access we can get and how we can get the veterans served, especially with the influx of patients that we're getting these days. We need to be creative in how we get to see them," said de la Bruere.

The clinic also offers services like drop-in hours for certain providers, group appointments for patients with similar diagnoses, and meetings with nurses for less serious cases.

De la Bruere said the main goal, though, is to put the veteran first.

"It's their needs that we want to meet, and we try to do the best we can within the system," he said.

Six Illinois facilities, including the clinic in Peoria, are flagged for review.