Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center

The Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Northwest Spokane in 2018.

It’s been over a year since a new electronic health records system was rolled out in Spokane’s Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center and its satellite clinics in Coeur d’Alene, Sandpoint, Wenatchee and Libby, Montana. And despite the monsoon of negative feedback from Mann-Grandstaff employees and patients, nothing has been done to rectify the situation.

This is outrageous and enforces a bad precedent that could create problems in other parts of the Veterans Affairs health network.

Arguably, many steps have been taken to address the lack of quality care experienced by our veterans, but the continued lack of action in fixing the Mann-Grandstaff health records system has certainly taken progress at least ten steps back.

Back in October 2020, as reported by the Spokesman-Review, this electronic health records system caused medical professionals’ productivity to decrease by 38%! The system also caused prescriptions to be incorrectly issued or to come up missing. Patients weren’t even able to contact Mann-Grandstaff employees, but were rerouted to a nonlocal call center.

Earlier this month, the Spokesman reported on “an internal survey in which the overwhelming majority of Mann-Grandstaff employees reported burnout and plummeting morale due to problems with the software used to manage patients’ information, known as electronic health records or EHR.”

The survey showed that a whooping 83% of Mann-Grandstaff employees felt a decline in morale due to this new EHR, and 78% reported worsening job satisfaction. A depressing 62% shared that the new program was making them question if they wanted to keep working at the hospital.

On the patient side of things, Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana shared that employee reports of patient safety issues have only increased since the programs implementation. “Since the new system was implemented in October 2020, employees have reported a total of 829 patient safety issues, 576 of which were directly related to the Cerner EHR.”

Let’s make something very clear: These numbers that are increasing at an alarming rate represent people. Further, those affected are part of a most vulnerable population with a jaw-dropping suicide rate — American Progress reports that at least 20 veterans nationwide die each day by suicide.

Our veterans have sacrificed so much for every one of us in this country to enjoy liberties we mostly take for granted. How can we claim that veterans are a top priority when these kinds of issues not only have been allowed to continue, but have added to an already substantial list of issues within the VA health care system?

Last October, VA officials announced a delayed switch over to this new system at any other VA facilities until these problems were resolved. But now, it’s looking like this same awful system will be rolled out in other parts of the country. Unacceptable.

As Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Wenatchee, put it, “All of this is not just delaying their care — it is compromising their care. If you’ve dedicated your life to protecting our country, it’s really our responsibility to make sure you get the best service and the best care. And at least for the past year, ... the VA’s really failing our veterans.”

Our veterans absolutely deserve better than this.