WASHINGTON, DC – Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers on Thursday asked the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs to delay the March 26 launch in Walla Walla of a troubled computer system that has caused numerous problems since its deployment in Spokane more than a year ago.
In a letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough, McMorris Rodgers requested that the new electronic health record system manufactured by Cerner Corp. will not be deployed to southeast Washington City until the department resolves the issues that have delayed care and left employees exhausted and demoralized. The software would replace an existing system used by healthcare providers to coordinate care and track important patient information.
“Veterans in my district continue to struggle with delayed and incorrect prescriptions, as well as bottlenecks in referrals to specialists or community care,” McMorris Rodgers wrote, adding that the system “still makes life harder to veterans and VA providers, not easier. ”
“I ask that you immediately delay the deployment of the Cerner electronic health record system to Walla Walla,” she continued, “until VA management can demonstrate readiness and effectiveness.”
On Jan. 14, VA announced that a planned March 5 launch of the system at its Columbus, Ohio facility would be delayed by about two months due to an increase in COVID-19 cases. At the time, a VA spokeswoman said the department would likely delay “go-live” dates at Walla Walla and other facilities, but declined to say when those decisions would be announced.
In a statement, VA press secretary Terrence Hayes said the department had “received the congresswoman’s letter and will address it appropriately,” without saying whether the launch would be delayed.
A Spokesman-Review investigation in December found the system, developed under a $10 billion VA contract signed with Cerner in 2018, has caused a litany of problems since its October 2020 launch at Mann-Grandstaff. VA Medical Center in Spokane and its affiliated outpatient clinics in Coeur d’Alene, Sandpoint, Wenatchee, Wash., and Libby, Mt.
In her letter, McMorris Rodgers, a Republican whose district includes Spokane and Walla Walla, also reiterated a previous request that McDonough or Assistant Secretary Donald Remy, the VA official in charge of the project, visit Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical. Center in Spokane. Remy met with hospital workers virtually in November after canceling an in-person visit, a change the department attributed to flight disruptions.
According to a tentative deployment schedule released by VA on Dec. 1, planned launches in Columbus and Walla Walla will be followed by Roseburg and White City, Oregon on June 11, then Boise on June 25 and Anchorage, Ak on July 16. Major testing for the troubled system would come next with deployments to major VA hospitals in Puget Sound on August 27, three locations in Michigan on October 8, and Portland on November 5.