AUSTIN (KXAN) — A team of researchers found that Black and Hispanic veterans waited longer for some medical services at Veteran Affairs (VA) hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic years than their white counterparts.
The study authors, who work with the VA, wrote that previous research has shown that Black and Hispanic veterans wait longer for care than white veterans. The researchers wanted to see if the same pattern could be found in the pandemic years.
“These results suggest that Black and Hispanic veterans experienced greater access barriers to care compared with their white counterparts during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the study authors wrote.
VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes released the following statement about the results:
“We conducted this study because we recognize inequities in VA health care have occurred in the past, and it’s important to us that we seek to identify and eliminate them. While we explore possible causes, we are actively working to right these wrongs and establish better communication channels with Black and Hispanic veterans. Secretary McDonough demands that we fight like hell for all veterans and deliver the world-class care they deserve. We will stop at nothing to achieve that goal.”
The researchers included in their analysis over one million veterans who access services at VA facilities and focused on wait times for orthopedic and cardiology services. They found wait times for all racial groups increased during the pandemic years but that the wait times were even longer for Black and Hispanic veterans.
On average, Black and Hispanic veterans waited 2.5 days longer to access orthopedic services compared to their white counterparts, according to the analysis. There was also a disparity in wait times for cardiovascular services, however, the difference was more modest, according to the study.
The researchers also found some facilities where the disparities were more pronounced.
“It will be important for further work to determine the extent to which these disparities are driven by patient (e.g., unequal access to resources needed to use health care services) or clinician factors (e.g., delayed nonvital procedures, discriminatory practices),” the study stated.