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Equipment Backlogs Across the Country Including at Buffalos VA Hospital Has Made Patient Care More Difficult Buffalo VA Hospital Has at Least 9 Pieces of Equipment Stuck in Backlog, Some Since 2012

Schumer Urges New VA Administration to Focus On Equipment Backlog and Procurement Process As It Makes Wholesale Changes to VA Current Process Can Take 3-4 Years from When Equipment is Ordered Until Final Delivery

Schumer: Our Vets Should Not Have To Wait Years For The Lif

Today, at the Vietnam Memorial at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer launched his push to clear a long backlog of requests for lifesaving medical equipment at Buffalo's VA Hospital. Schumer said that doctors and patients at the Buffalo VA have been waiting too long to receive at least nine pieces of important equipment; in some cases, they have been waiting for over two years. Schumer explained that this is a problem that is plaguing VA hospitals around the country, and he is urging the new administration coming in to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to make wholesale changes to its equipment procurement process. Schumer said that clearing this dangerous backlog is crucial for the VA to provide the best possible care for Western New York's veterans.


"Many changes are needed at the VA to provide our nation's veterans with the best possible care, and as a new administration comes in with the goal of overhauling the entire system, it is critical that they address the equipment procurement backlog that is plaguing the Buffalo VA, as well as VA Hospitals across the country," said  Schumer. "When local VAs like Buffalo must wait years on end to receive this muchneeded equipment, it could be the difference between life and death, and it definitely hinders doctors' ability to do their important, lifesaving work.. When bureaucracy threatens to hold up procurement for years on end, something must be done. That is why I am calling on the VA to do whatever it takes to significantly diminish these backlogs by adjusting its procurement process as the veterans of Buffalo can wait no longer."


Schumer explained that when a local VA Hospital needs new livesaving, often expensive, equipment-like an MRI machine, catheterization labs, da Vinci surgery robot, newer CT scan machines with lower radiation doses, and dental PAC system-it must procure that piece through the VA's National Acquisition Center (NAC). This is where the backlog stems from, as the procurement phase can be very lengthy. Specifically, the Buffalo VA currently has nine pieces that were ordered and budgeted for in 2012 or 2013 that have not yet been awarded by NAC or delivered to the Buffalo VA. This means doctors at the VA have been waiting for two years in some cases to get the equipment they need to treat veterans. Schumer said this backlog is unacceptable because, when equipment is no longer working but has yet to be replaced by the NAC, veterans' appointments must be canceled or postponed indefinitely. This becomes very problematic when a local VA has been waiting for years to procure hightech equipment, as veterans are left missing out on the latest advancements that provide a higher quality of health care. Not only that, but when appointments are cancelled as a result of broken or underperforming equipment it only further exacerbates that patient backlog issues.  Schumer noted that many changes are underway at the VA to improve patient care, and Schumer encouraged the current Acting Secretary of the VA, as well as the President's nominee to take over the VA, to address this procurement problem as part of its ongoing overhaul of the agency.


"The VA Western New York Healthcare System and the VA Medical Center in Buffalo, New York work hard to provide quality and timely healthcare to our region's veterans.  Like any other large healthcare organization, the VA Western New York Healthcare System continues to reinvest in infrastructure and equipment, in order to provide continued mission alignment of providing top quality healthcare to our local Veterans through the procurement process. Anytime Federal Regulations, or a massive and bureaucratic procurement process unnecessarily constrains or delays the delivery of new equipment, it makes it harder for the VA Health Administration to achieve that mission alignment. We applaud Senator Schumer for working to streamline the VA Healthcare System's acquisition and procurement process, by advocating for an improved procurement process, and streamlining procedures at the National Acquisitions Center," said  Roger L. Woodworth, President & CEO of the Veterans OneStop Center of WNY.  


"As issues at the VA are addressed in the coming months it is critically important that something be done to address the backlog in equipment purchasing throughout the VA system. When the delivery of new equipment is delayed it means that the healthcare provided to WNY veterans suffers. Months and in some cases years is simply too long for veterans to wait for new machines and equipment that is critical to their healthcare," said  Patrick W. Welch, PhD and Retired U.S. Marine Corps member and President of VetsHERD, Inc.


Schumer explained that local VA hospitals like Buffalo's are continually ordering new equipment and replacing old and outdated equipment. As a result, there are times when the number of pieces of equipment stuck in the pipeline can be even higher than it is now. As recently as several months ago, there were upwards of 21 pieces of equipment that were stuck in the procurement review phase, and, without system improvements, that number could climb even higher in the coming months. Schumer noted that the Buffalo VA Hospital does an excellent job securing medical equipment when it is able to procure items locally, but for larger items, which must be reviewed and managed by the National Acquisitions Center in Chicago, that process can often be cumbersome and long. Industry experts have estimated the national equipment procurement backlog to be as high as 900 pieces of equipment across the country.


Schumer said that this focus on addressing the equipment procurement backlog should be in addition to the muchneeded effort to speed up patient wait times. Schumer recently supported a bipartisan bill that would expand hospitals and clinics run by the Department of Veterans Affairs and enable them to hire more doctors and nurses to provide timely, quality care for veterans. The bill would also let veterans facing long delays for appointments at VA facilities go elsewhere and would hold VA officials accountable for trying to conceal patient wait times. The bill passed the Senate earlier this month by a vote of 933.


According to the Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance, the equipment procurement backlog is not just an issue in Western New York, although it is particularly acute at the Buffalo VA. There are estimates that there are currently 900 pieces of equipment across the entire U.S. that have been in limbo for years in the VA's NAC system that desperately need approval. Schumer explained that this systemic problem that is plaguing VA hospitals around the country must be addressed for the sake of our veterans. Schumer is urging the new administration at the VA, including Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson and the President's recent nominee to take over as secretary of the VA, Robert McDonald, to make wholesale changes to its equipment procurement process that will allow for better access to care for our veterans overall.