After visiting Spokane VA Medical Center, Patty Murray says she remains committed to fixing the computer system that harmed veterans

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Before visiting the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane on Thursday, Sen. Patty Murray said she had pledged to fix a faulty computer system that had threatened patient safety since the Department of Veterans Affairs began repairing it. pilot in the Interior Northwest in October 2020.

The Washington Democrat, who holds key positions on Senate committees that provide both oversight and funding for the effort expected to cost at least $21 billion over a decade, unsuccessfully called on Secretary VA Denis McDonough to stop launching the system in Walla Walla and other North West countries. towns until the problems are resolved. A draft report from the VA’s Office of the Inspector General found that senior VA officials approved the continued deployment of the system despite being warned months earlier of a problem that had harmed 148 veterans n had not been fully resolved.

“The doctors and nurses and everyone who works here at Mann-Grandstaff really cares about their job and their mission, but right now they’re bogged down by a faulty electronic health record system that’s not working for them. “Murray told reporters. before meeting veterans and hospital staff.

Murray’s visit to Spokane came after Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Republican who represents Central Washington, met with veterans and employees of the VA Medical Center in Walla Walla and a VA clinic in Richland on Tuesday and Wednesday. In a statement Thursday, Newhouse said he heard a clear message from these veterans and their staff: the system “is not providing the care our veterans need and deserve.”

According to the draft surveillance report, obtained by The Spokesman-Review, a problem with the system resulted in referral orders submitted by doctors and nurses not being delivered to their recipients, resulting in delayed care and 148 instances of harm identified by a VA patient. security team.

“I am committed to ensuring that our veterans, the men and women who put their lives on the line for us, receive this care where and when they need it,” Newhouse said in the statement. “I call on the Biden administration to immediately deploy resources to Spokane and Walla Walla VA hospitals to ensure that no further records are lost and no further veterans are harmed.”

After The Spokesman-Review informed the VA that it had obtained the inspector general’s draft report, the department announced that it would delay the system’s planned launch in the Puget Sound area from August to March. A few days later, the rollout of the system at Boise VA Medical Center was pushed back a month to July 23.

Thursday in Spokane, Murray took credit for McDonough’s decision to delay the rollout to Seattle and other sites west of the Cascades, saying that bringing the system to these larger, more complex facilities before to solve the problems would be “catastrophic”.

When a reporter asked Murray what it would take for her to consider ending the project permanently, which she is uniquely positioned to do as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator said she was still determined to see the effort through.

“The system we had before was outdated and not working,” she said. “That hasn’t changed. But that fact is, until we’ve got it right – and we haven’t yet – we have to fix it and we really have to get the AV and the administration focused on getting the job done. that, and then extend it to other people.

The new system, developed by Cerner Corp. under a $10 billion contract signed in 2018 without going through a competitive bidding process, is intended to replace the existing electronic health record still used by nearly all of the city’s more than 1,200 facilities. VA nationwide, which remains popular with users. Murray said she recently spoke with executives at tech giant Oracle, which acquired Cerner in a $28.3 billion deal that closed in June.

While admitting she is not an expert in electronic health records, Murray said Oracle and VA executives have assured her they are working quickly to resolve system issues. Still, she said, “I’ll believe them when I see it.”

On Wednesday, Oracle Executive Vice President Kenneth Glueck sent a letter to senior members of a House subcommittee overseeing the rollout of the system, Rep. Frank Mrvan, D-Ind., and Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont. In it, Glueck told lawmakers that Oracle was doing a “thorough analysis” of the system, including the issue that the backorder commands are effectively disappearing.

Contradicting a central claim in the Inspector General’s draft report, Oracle’s executive claimed that officials from the VA and the Department of Defense — which implements a similar Cerner system — decided in January 2020 to ‘use the functionality causing the missing commands. If true, at least some of the blame for the harm would be shifted to VA officials who failed to inform doctors and nurses of the potential risk.

After its scheduled launch at Boise VA Medical Center and its affiliate clinics in Oregon and Idaho on July 23, the Cerner system is not expected to be rolled out to other sites until early 2023.

In June, President Joe Biden signed a bill that requires the VA to send reports to Congress every three months on the status and cost of the 10-year project, which is already overdue and whose total cost remains uncertain.

Reporter spokesperson Kip Hill contributed to this report.

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