(The Center Square) – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, is calling for the chief at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center to address patient fears about services being cut or eliminated.
“Veterans are our nation’s heroes, and they deserve red carpet treatment with timely access to quality care,” she said in a May 10 letter to Dr. Robert Fischer, director of the medical center in Spokane.
She said the letter was written following conversations with Fischer after her April 25 visit to the facility with Donald Remy, deputy secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In Tuesday’s letter, McMorris Rodgers chastised Fischer for not debunking rumors that have “swirled across the community” about the potential loss of patient services.
“This lack of transparency from leadership at the VA has created frustration and confusion within the community,” she said.
McMorris Rodgers said it was good to hear from Fischer that there were no immediate plans to change services. She urged him to get that news out to military families.
She noted in the letter that, during Remy’s visit, the electronic health records system went down for 45 minutes, demonstrating what she contends is a history of instability. She has long called for a review of the system that was created by Cerner Corporation and sold to the VA for $16 billion to replace the old records system.
McMorris Rodgers said media outlets had reported the record system crashing more than 50 times since its launch. That series of failures have resulted in potentially dangerous and life-threatening consequences for patients, she said.
“This has led to hundreds of impacts on patient care, with veterans experiencing unacceptable care delays for critically needed treatment. Veteran records have been deleted from the system, leading to lost prescriptions for crucial medications, appointment cancellations and delays, and other unacceptable lapses in veteran safety and care.”
She said continuing problems with the records system necessitates the need for the medical center to maintain staffing levels and not consider cuts to address budget challenges. She said funding for positions that are vacated should be shifted to other departments, including urgent and inpatient care, rather than being cut altogether.
Another top priority, said McMorris Rodgers, is restoring around-the-clock urgent care at Mann-Grandstaff.
“We are now five months past the initial target date that Secretary [Denis] McDonough announced for the reopening of 24/7 urgent care,” she stated. “While I understand complications with COVID and the electronic health record modernization impacted that timeline, the incessant delays further undermine veterans’ confidence that they will have access to care when and where they need it most.”