“You could change the picture of Mr. askew, put mine in his place, change the name, and you got the same exact story,” said Jim Jarrell when he saw the NewsChannel 3 story on Vietnam marine Phillip Askew this week.
Mr. Jarrell is also a Vietnam veteran, who was stationed at Camp Lejune during the contaminated water period. Just like Mr. Askew, he is worried about the speed of care at the VA hospital in Hampton.
“Usually you have to wait 2-3 months,” said Jarrell. “It would take so dog-gone long to see the doctor, and then when you had an appointment, time doesn’t matter much, because you were going to be there awhile.”
Mr. Jarrell tells us he went to his primary care doctor at least three times over the past seven months, each time bringing attention to a mass in his neck.
“My suspicions and my fears weren't dealt with, I couldn’t get a straight answer from anybody at the VA,” said Jarrell.
So he decided to go outside the VA and get a second opinion in March, a doctor at Family Physicians of Tidewater noted in this report, “I feel the persistent mass along the left neck" and told Mr. Jarrell he needed a CT scan.
“The medical issue I’m talking about was confirmed by an outside doctor, which I had to pay for because I knew something was wrong and it wasn't being addressed properly,” said Mr. Jarrell.
To be fair, NewsChannel 3 got calls from several local veterans who are happy with their care at the VA.
Even Mr. Jarrell says he had great experiences with many of his specialists, including dermatology and mental health.
The problem, though, is in the speed of getting primary care appointments and referrals.
He thinks it has everything to do with the VA's increasing patient load.
“There are a tremendous amount of veterans, and each day more are coming from Iraq and all these other places. They have issues, they have to be addressed. The VA needs a lot more people,” said Jarrell.
Once he shared the outside report with his VA doctors, Mr. Jarrell finally got a CT scan scheduled.
Still, he e-mailed the director of the hospital, Michael Dunfee, to share his concerns.
"Ask the vets. Ask them when their appointment was and how long they have been waiting, waiting. Find out how many weeks/months they have been waiting to get their appointment,” he wrote.
“I’m not unique; no telling how many have the same problem or even worse than mine,” said Jarrell.
NewsChannel 3 received this statement from the VA:
“The Hampton VA Medical Center is continually growing to meet the needs of Veterans today and into the future. Currently the medical center provides health care services to over 40,000 Veterans throughout Northeastern North Carolina, Southeastern Virginia and Virginia’s Eastern Shore. These proud patriots have chosen Hampton VA Medical Center as their health care provider of choice. During 2012, the medical center’s Veteran population increased by seven percent. To address the increase of Veterans who are seeking their health care from the VA, and plan for continued growth, the Hampton VA is expanding services in all areas of the hospital. Primary Care teams will be increased by 27 percent by the end of this year. Mental Health services will add 65 new positions. We are currently renovating our inpatient mental health ward, and expanding our homeless outreach programs. This past year, the Women’s health clinic opened a new 15,000 sq.ft. facility to provide primary care and mental health services to women Veterans. We also opened a mammography unit in the main medical center. Plans are underway to increase the capacity in the Emergency Department by adding four additional emergency bays. The Hampton VA Medical Center meets or exceeds clinical quality outcomes as compared to community health care providers, based upon Clinical Practice Guidelines and Joint Commission standards. The Hampton VA Medical Center remains committed to providing quality health care and serving the needs of America’s Veterans.”