On average, new Tucson VA patients waited 23 days in July for an appointment with a dermatologist, longer than the national average of an 18-day wait across all VA systems in the U.S., VA data show.
Dermatology is one of a number of specialties in which public health facilities struggle to recruit and retain staff, said Dr. Anthony Stazzone, chief of staff at the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System, on South Sixth Avenue at Ajo Way.
Dermatologists usually choose to work for the VA out of a sense of service, since they face a 30 percent to 50 percent pay cut compared with the private sector, Stazzone said.
“We can’t compete with the private sector in dermatology,” Stazzone said. Specialty shortages are not unique to the VA, he said. Stazzone recalled working at the University of Arizona’s hospital — now Banner-University Medical Center Tucson — more than a decade ago when the hospital was working to rebuild its dermatology staff after a mass exodus.
“Anywhere in health care, you’re going to have ebbs and flows in staffing,” he said.