The San Diego VA Healthcare Center’s Emergency Department has some of the longest emergency room wait times in the nation, according to data uncovered by NBC 7 San Diego.
Veteran U.S. Marine Josh Goldman, who served in Iraq in Logistics and Transport, said he waited 15 hours in the emergency department in February.
An avid cyclist, Goldman first came to the VA after he shattered his wrist and broke his elbow on a ride.
“It was pretty excruciating,” he told NBC 7. “It was tough to even concentrate and I started to go into shock on the side of a road.”
The veteran said he never expected such a long wait.
“I was rolled back once to X-ray, I ended up sitting in kind of a hallway, just kind a looking at the ceiling for a couple hours again with my wrist sticking out of the side,” he said.
Goldman said he was in severe pain and waited in the emergency from a Saturday around 10 a.m. ”into Sunday morning, and they didn't actually physically move me to a room where I was admitted until 1:30 or 2:00 Sunday morning.”
The VA measures emergency room wait times in multiple ways: From entry to triage, from entry to doctor, from entry to discharge and from entry to admittance.
NBC 7 found in two of the four ways the VA measures wait times the SD VA Healthcare Emergency Room has some of longest wait times. Those included: From entry to doctor and from entry to admittance.
According to data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, The San Diego VA Emergency Room ranked among the longest time for a patient to see a doctor in the ER.
Data showed, from October 2015 to August 2016, the San Diego had the fourth in the longest wait times in the country, with a median wait time of 89 minutes.
Dr. Patricia Hlavin , the Emergency Department Director, told NBC 7 the methods the VA in San Diego was using to calculate the numbers were different than other facilities, and the numbers have improved to a little more than an hour. Triage doctors are now expediting the process in the ER, Hlavin said.
The San Diego VA Healthcare Center Emergency Department is also ranked as the facility with the eighth longest wait times in the county for a patient to be admitted to the hospital after entering the E.R. an improvement over six months ago, when the facility was ranked second longest.
Hlavin said she feels for veterans who have to wait, and says the problem is that there simply is not enough room at the VA Hospital.
“Every bed in the hospital is full, or we don't have nurses to staff the beds that we have available,” Hlavin said.
Hlavin said she has the budget to hire more nurses, but there is too much competition for good paying nursing jobs in San Diego.
Hlavin said she even serves as a triage nurse in the ER to help alleviate the wait.
There are no urgent care centers at VA Medical Facilities in San Diego. Many veterans, she said, come to the emergency room when they have a health issue that is not an emergency and that puts a strain on the system.
She said the most critical patients are moved quickly to get the medical help they need, and the VA does work with other hospitals when it's necessary.
“I feel like we do really great care for the very sick patients, the folks that need to be here,” Hlavin said.
Goldman told NBC 7 he was scheduled for surgery on his arm at the VA, only to have it canceled. He said he was told there were issues with equipment sterilization.
Goldman said he was unable schedule another at the VA for a few weeks.
Given all he had experienced and the extent of his injury, he chose to go outside the VA and pay for the surgery himself.
The San Diego VA Healthcare System serves more than 230,000 veterans in a region with one of the largest populations of veterans.