*Editor’s note: When News13 first reported on complaints about the VA facility in our newscasts Thursday, we did not include in our 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. reports the statement from the VA, which is included in this story. We apologize and regret the error.
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Local veterans are voicing their concerns with the lack of primary physicians at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Myrtle Beach.
News13’s Maya Lockett spent Thursday speaking with veterans who would like to see more staffing.
“It’s great but it’s not fully staffed,” said James Yermas, a patient.
Yermas has been a patient at the center for three years, and he said the center currently only has two primary physicians. Yermas said he was told by employees that the clinic was only half-staffed.
“I see my primary care doctor every eight months, and I’m 72 years old,” Yermas said. “With all the problems I have, and the other veterans, I mean, I have my facilities so I can take care of what I have to do. But I talked to a lot of my fellow veterans that are coming here and they have problems.”
The clinic originally opened in 2021, and it was intended to replace the previous clinic in Market Common. The facility is 84,000 square feet and has 200 treatment rooms, an optical shop, prosthetic services and a mobile MRI.
However, one new feature the veterans do not like is having to call the Charleston VA Center to schedule an appointment.
Lou Mascherino, owner of Veterans Cafe and Grille, said he has not been able to see his primary doctor in a year and a half, and he does not believe the Charleston center cares about them.
“We have to call Charleston to get an appointment to see the doctor here is, you know, ridiculous,” Mascherino said. “I feel that Charleston doesn’t care about us. It seems like they just, you know, ‘hey, we’ll take, you know, if we get to you, we’ll get to you.'”
Yermas echoed that sentiment.
“If you have a primary care doctor here, and you do want to get a hold of them, they’ll tell you to email. I can email, but a lot of veterans can’t email,” Yermas said. “So they have to call again, Charleston, Charleston, goes back to here. It’s a timeline that really [doesn’t] exist.”
Yermas said he would like to see more action from the federal government in recruiting doctors for VA hospitals across the country.
“We did what we had to do when a country called about us, and now it’s time for the country to live up to what they promised us,” Yermas said.
H. Wayne Capps, a spokesperson for Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System, released a statement to News13’s Maya Lockett in response:
“Timely access and delivering high-quality care to Veterans is our top priority at VA. Our current wait time for a new patient appointment at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System’s Myrtle Beach clinic is 12 days, compared to 73 to 109 days in the Myrtle Beach community. We also offer same-day appointments for Veterans in crisis or facing mental health challenges. While wait times are significantly lower here than the local average, we continue to look at ways to deliver quicker appointments to Veterans, who deserve nothing less than world-class care. “