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Phoenix VA official carries message that veterans care is improving

(Getty Images/Christian Petersen)

PHOENIX – After three years of one-star ratings for the Phoenix VA Medical Center, officials are pushing to convince veterans that their concerns are being heard and acted on.

“We have really been working hard to change the perception of what’s going on here,” Rima Nelson, director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System said Monday on KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News.

The VA was scheduled to officially break ground on a large outpatient clinic near 32nd and Van Buren streets later in the day.

The facility was expected to open in 2021.

Nelson said the site will be home to a state-of-the art clinic.

The Phoenix VA was a focal point of a 2014 nationwide scandal of patient neglect, secret lists and falsified records involving excessive wait times.

Since then, senior leadership has been replaced.

Nelson was appointed in October 2016.

The 2018 hospital ratings were released in October.

“The area that’s really keeping us in that one-star [out of a possible five] area is perception,” Nelson said.

“Surveys go out to veterans and we get their feedback on how they think their veteran experience has been here.”

That question accounted for 28 percent of the overall rating, Nelson said.

“That is the one area we have focused on,” Nelson said, “and continue to improve on.”

Better access is part of the solution, she said, noting a website provided real-time estimates of when and where new patients could see a doctor.

She added same-day service was available if a veteran wanted to see a primary care physician or a mental health professional.

Nelson said 6,000 patients have signed on in the past two years.

“That’s great news for us.”

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