FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The Veterans Affairs North Texas Health Care System is reviewing issues with caring for patients quickly in the emergency room after noticing wait times trending up. The adjustments come as several North Texas veterans told CBS11 they have had difficulty getting emergency care and follow-up care quickly in local facilities.

Executives began adding physicians and more registered nurses in recent months, after noticing wait times increasing. More nurses are now evaluating cases that are less of an emergency, so that doctors can see patients with the greatest need.

The family of Marine Corporal Justin Trivett contacted CBS11 this week after a two-hour wait at a Fort Worth VA clinic and a six-hour wait in Dallas failed to stop debilitating back pain. Trivett, originally injured moving heavy equipment in Afghanistan, has spent nearly three weeks on the floor of his home, waiting to see a back specialist. One reached out to him Monday afternoon.

Tuesday, veterans told CBS 11 the issues extended to care for long-term medical problems.
Army veteran Gordon Farmer said he first experienced delays in 2009, waiting for surgery for an aneurysm. After the procedure, his left side began bulging to an embarrassing size. He said VA doctors though were unable to help.

“One of the surgeons told me I’ll put it to you this way,” Farmer said. “There’s no sense in you wasting our time and us wasting your time there’s nothing we can do for you.”

He said the bulge was so large security in a department store once accused him of shoplifting. They were pretty embarrassed he said, when he revealed his abnormality. Farmer underwent a second surgery in May to repair the problem, but said with only one follow-up visit to a doctor since then he’s not sure if he’s healing up or not.

Elaine Kidder said her family was extremely appreciative when her husband John was whisked into the Dallas facility in 2008 to treat cancer from exposure to Agent Orange. “It was really nice so of course we had the halo effect from that first visit,” she said.

Kidder did well until this year when his wife said the cancer returned. She said her husband could not get new scans due to budget restrictions at the facility. A failed surgery and an open wound there turned into 911 calls and a trip to Medical Center of Lewisville and Medical City Dallas because the VA in Dallas would not authorize his transfer. He fell into a coma and died in June. “I don’t want to listen to this rhetoric from politicians about how we value our service people so if they need something we’re going to give it to them,” she said.

The VA said its encouraging veterans to make use of its MyHealtheVet system. It’s an online service that gives veterans access to parts of their record and have communication with their health care team.

The North Texas system is the second largest in the nation, and served 111,000 unique patients last year.

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