Washington congresswoman calls for Oracle Cerner's VA program closure: 'a complete failure'

“The Oracle Cerner electronic health record system has been a complete failure. It has created more problems than it’s solved,” said Rep. McMorris Rodgers.

Published: September 17, 2023 11:17pm

(The Center Square) -

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee on a topic she’s been all too familiar with this year, the state of the Electronic Health Record Modernization program at the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system.

“The Oracle Cerner electronic health record system has been a complete failure. It has created more problems than it’s solved,” said McMorris Rodgers, opening her testimony. “From the very beginning, veterans in Eastern Washington have been sounding the alarm about the issues with the EHR.”

She went on to highlight constituent complaints in eastern Washington ranging from prescription errors to dropped appointments. Referrals to specialists that were somehow lost in the system. She said those mistakes directly harmed nearly 150 veterans in her district.

McMorris Rodgers is no stranger to the program.

She called out the billion dollar contract with Cerner, since acquired by technology giant Oracle, earlier this year when the EHR program was shown to be $35 million in the red. Not nationwide, just in Spokane.

And it isn’t just one side of the aisle taking this stance.

As far back as March of 2022 Sen. Patty Murray issued a statement when the VA hospital in Spokane “ground to a halt [...] due to a troubled computer system”

“It’s absolutely unacceptable that a technical failure by Cerner has led to patients being turned away at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane,” said Murray at the time. “I have pressed both Cerner and VA to get my office answers immediately on what went wrong and what steps they’re taking to prevent it from happening again.”

A full eighteen months later, McMorris Rodgers is again sounding the alarm.

“One-Hundred and Fifty men and women who risked their lives for our country were harmed by the very agency who promised to care for them upon their return,” she said. “Irresponsible doesn’t even begin to describe it.”

Testimony from VA staff followed.

During his opening statement for the hearing, Director for Mann-Grandstaff Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Spokane Dr. Robert J. Fischer, painted a picture of hardworking staff struggling to keep up with a new system that isn’t making the job easy.

“Since implementation, our employees have recorded, investigated, and mitigated over 1,600 Oracle Cerner related patient safety events. They reviewed, for potential intervention and mitigation, more than 28,000 medical orders that populated the electronic health record queues when they did not execute successfully as anticipated,” said Dr. Fischer. “Our staff has entered 15,000 break-fix incident tickets, and 3,000 change requests since initial implementation.”

Dr. Fischer went on to thank the hardworking staff at the VA hospitals and clinics he oversees, which span five cities in Washington, Idaho, and Montana.

Shortly after the hearing, McMorris Rodgers issued a statement via X, formerly known as Twitter, consisting of a video of her testimony and saying simply “It’s time to pull the plug on this deeply broken system and go back to one that works.”

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