HomeUSAVeterans Protest to End Controversial Electronic Health Record System

Veterans Protest to End Controversial Electronic Health Record System

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Charlie Bourg and Charlie Monroe were both back outside the Mann-Grandstaff Veterans Medical Center on Tuesday morning, continuing a protest that began years ago outside the aging medical facility in northwest Spokane.

Their target was familiar: the electronic medical records system that has been linked to the deaths of four known patients nationwide. This week, the pair of military servicemen worked with about a half dozen other volunteers requesting signatures on a petition to remove the records system from all Veterans Administration health care providers nationwide.

“It needs to be taken out. It needs to be done right,” said Bourg, an Army veteran who says the progression of his terminal cancer was caused by the records system that federal lawmakers have called “an ongoing disaster.” Yet the VA has stopped at halting the program’s rollout, not removing it from the health centers where it’s already been implemented. That includes Spokane, where the system — originally designed by health care giant Cerner, which was acquired by Oracle last year — debuted in 2020.

Late last month, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers called for the VA to abandon the beleaguered system, announcing her support of federal legislation that would do so. The bill was first introduced in January but has yet to receive a hearing on Capitol Hill, and the system remains online in Walla Walla, and in cities in Ohio and Oregon.

Bourg and Monroe, a veteran of the U.S. Navy Seabees, made 2,000 business-card sized fliers that they’ve distributed to workers and patients around the VA campus. Both said lawmakers should call for the system to be tossed in favor of the previous method of case management, Vista, or at the very least they should experience the Cerner Oracle system firsthand.

“Why mess with our lives? Take it to Walter Reed, let them have it over there,” said Monroe, referring to the national military medical center in Bethesda, Maryland, that has cared for U.S. presidents for decades.

As of Tuesday morning, the pair and their volunteers had handed out about 1,500 business cards, they said. The petition had 522 signatures as of noon.

Joe Gannaway held a sign reading, “Take a minute to save a veteran,” as he handed out cards to people leaving the parking lot of the facility. He had to leave for a medical appointment, but took a stack to hand out in the NorthTown area.

“I went in there one time to pay a bill, and it was so screwed up, I couldn’t pay it,” said Gannaway, who was also in the Seabees.

Billing problems are just one of the issues that veterans will continue to face if the Oracle Cerner system is not removed from use, Bourg said.

“The biggest thing that everybody keeps forgetting is, it isn’t just the veterans that are suffering, it’s the families,” he said. “It’s not about Cerner, it’s not about the VA, it’s not about who’s going to make money off it.”

(c) 2023 The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.)

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