Lawmaker Blasts VA Over $156K Fine for Oracle Cerner EHR System Outages

After more than 44 days of Oracle Cerner EHR system outages, Representative Matt Rosendale argued the penalties VA imposed were too light.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) charged Oracle Cerner a more than $156,000 penalty for the numerous EHR system outage at VA facilities, according to reporting from FedScoop.

However, Representative Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) questioned the size of the penalty, contrasting it with the number of outages that have occurred since the rollout of the EHR system.

“Why has the VA only withheld $156,750 for Cerner’s failure to meet the service level agreement for the system up time?” Rosendale said at a House hearing, according to FedScoop. “Do you think it’s a fair penalty for over 44 days of outages, degradations, and losses of functionality?”

Nearly 500 major incidents and at least 45 days of downtime have been recorded with the Oracle Cerner EHR system since the system go-live in 2020.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request revealed that the EHR system had 930 hours of “incomplete functionality” and 40 hours of “outage” between Sept. 8, 2020, and June 10, 2022.

More recently, the VA Oracle Cerner EHR system outage, initiated by a corrupted patient database, affected users across the VA, the Department of Defense (DoD), and the Coast Guard. The corrupted patient database could have led to potential patient harm due to the errors. 

Michael Parrish, the VA’s chief acquisition officer, replied to Rosendale’s scrutiny assuring that Oracle-Cerner’s failures would not be tolerated in the private sector. Parrish also said that the agency requires further financial support from Congress to modernize all of its Antiquated systems.

“69 percent of VA medical centers are more than 50 years old and require full modernization,” said Parrish. “VA’s infrastructure footprint is not flexible enough, and changes in Veteran’s needs, demographics, and locations are outpacing our ability to transform and manage it.”

“With additional funding, VA would be better poised to modernize the full portfolio of assets to best serve our Veterans,” Parrish added.

The trouble-stricken EHR system is now expected to be delayed from its original estimates by at least one to two years, the FedScoop reporting stated.

Adding to the long list of issues, members of the Senate VA Committee learned that the estimated $16 billion project cost over the next 30 years could actually approach $51 billion.

The EHR’s ongoing rollout has also raised concerns from former VA leaders.

“If you don’t have discipline, if you don’t control costs tightly, and if you don’t even know what your costs are, you’ll get sucked for every dollar the government has,” Roger Baker, chief information officer (CIO) and former assistant secretary for information and technology for the VA, said to FedScoop. “Like with Cerner. That’s how this game works.”

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