MARION – U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart (D-Illinois) was on the ground at the Marion Veterans Administration health facility Thursday.
“After commanding the Illinois National Guard, I learned there is no better way to understand the true nature of a problem than when you put boots on the ground,” Enyart said. “Today, I put boots on the ground in Marion. I met with administrators, doctors, and staff, but most importantly, I met with patients.”
Enyart spent an hour inside the Marion VA hospital speaking with some two dozen patients, specifically requesting to visit with patients without administration in the room. He also made an unscheduled stop at the Marion VA outpatient clinic earlier in the day, where he met with additional patients and staff members.
“It was important to me that I speak with veterans without anyone else in the room. I wanted to make sure these folks didn’t feel pressure when they were talking to me about any concerns they may have had,” Enyart said.
The Marion VA facility ranks slightly above average for patient satisfaction across the country. “But we can always do better,” Enyart said.
Enyart listened to patients who spoke about their experience regarding wait times and appointment scheduling. Most patients have had satisfactory interaction and experiences with the facility. Of the patients that have experienced issues, many state that excess red tape was to blame.
The Marion facility is actively working to recruit 200 additional full-time employees, in addition to the 1,400 current full-time employees. Thirty percent of the active workforce at the Marion facility are veterans. In the last 12 months, 24 physicians have been hired and the facility is looking to hire an additional 39 physicians.
“I’m pleased to see the overall quality of care here at Marion,” Enyart said. “I can’t speak to the entire VA system, but efforts are being made here at Marion for improved care.”
The national standard of wait time for a primary care appointment is 14 days; Marion’s average wait time is 11 days. The national standard for a specialty care appointment is 14 days, Marion’s average wait time is 19 days – a statistic administrators are working to bring down.
In 2013, Enyart introduced the Veterans Backlog Reduction Act to incentivize the VA to move more quickly to eliminate patient backlogs. As a result, backlog wait times have decreased.
Enyart will continue working with VA administrators in order to provide the best health care possible.
“Our military men and women made great sacrifices for our country,” he said. “The least we owe them is dependable, reliable health care.”
Enyart serves on the House Armed Services Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. Before becoming a congressman in 2013, Enyart served as the commanding general of the Illinois National Guard, capping off a 35-year military career.