The director of the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System says the system has improved veterans’ access to care, but there are still challenges. MPB’s Evelina Burnett was at his "state of the system" report on Thursday and has our story.
Director Anthony Dawson says the Gulf Coast VA is now able to see 97 percent of patients within 30 days. That’s up from 93 percent a year ago.
"So that leaves about 3% of the veterans not being seen," he says. "According to our calculations that’s about 1,400 veterans who are not being seen within 30 days. So we are going to keep working until we are able to see everyone within that time period.”
The Gulf Coast VA saw a 6 percent jump in patient encounters last year. In response to this growth, which is occurring across the nation, Dawson says the VA has focused on growing capacity in four areas: staffing, space, productivity and the use of outside providers.
"We use everybody that we possibly can," he says. "But some veterans say, I will because I prefer to come to the VA. So some are choosing to do that as well."
Dawson also highlighted another of the VA’s accomplishments over the past year: increased services for homeless veterans, like Marine veteran Alex Stallworth. Stallworth is no longer homeless. He now works at the VA as a laundry site supervisor. He’s also now giving back by being a VA Ambassador.
“We greet each veteran with a smile, family members, visitors," he says. "We help them to their appointments.If they’re in a wheelchair, we make sure we assist them, give them good conversation, back and forth to their appointments.”
The increase in services and greater coordination among local resource providers led to Gulfport and Biloxi being recognized in late 2015 as having effectively ended homelessness in both cities.