VA fires EHR modernization leader James Byrne

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie on Feb. 3 fired James Byrne, the VA deputy secretary who oversaw the department's EHR modernization effort, FedScoop reports.

Mr. Wilkie in a statement said he fired Mr. Byrne due to his "loss of confidence in Mr. Byrne's ability to carry out his duties," according to the report. He added that Mr. Byrne's removal from the position is effective immediately.

Mr. Byrne was Senate-confirmed to the deputy secretary role in September and previously served in an acting capacity since August 2018. As the accountable official on the VA's EHR modernization project, Mr. Byrne worked closely with VA's CIO. In November, Mr. Byrne said he was "very confident" the agency would successfully launch its new $16 billion Cerner EHR at its first site this March.

Ahead of the anticipated March 28 EHR go live, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray penned a letter on Jan. 29 to Richard Stone, MD, executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, to express her concerns with staffing and facility issues at Spokane, Wash.-based Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center.

Issues at the Spokane VAMC, including a 2014 emergency room downgrade, limited appointments available due to staffing and sterilization problems and limited intensive care unit admissions, have contributed to care shortages for veterans, Ms. Murrary wrote.

"In addition to the emergency room being downgraded, the staffing and space issues at Spokane VAMC will continue to impede veterans' access to primary care and could worsen during the EHR modernization," Ms. Murray wrote. 

Prior to his removal, Mr. Byrne had previously said either he or Mr. Wilkie would make the final decision on whether the new EHR would be ready to go live by March 28, according to FedScoop. With Mr. Byrne's removal, it is unclear how the decision will be made, according to the report.

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