Local News

Some snow expected to fall Monday in Palouse, Spokane areas, with limited impact on commute

<p><p>Spokane will see a light dusting of snow starting at sunrise on Monday, the National Weather Service’s Spokane office said. </p></p><p><p>From about 7-10 a.m. roughly¼ of an inch of snow is expected to fall in the Spokane area, said Ron Miller, a meteorologist with the NWS Spokane office.</p></p><p><p>After 10 a.m. an additional ¾ of an inch was expected to stick due to the around-freezing temperatures forecasted for Monday, he said. </p></p><p><p>A low of 24 degrees was forecasted for Sunday night, and the high for Monday was predicted at 33 degrees. Miller said wind on Monday would be “really light,” and the day would likely remain cold, cloudy and lightly snowy.</p></p><p><p>“We’re not now expecting much of an impact on the morning commute,” Miller said. “(Low temperatures) can actually help things because if the roads are nice and cold, and the snow is nice and cold, the snow tends not to want to stick on the road as much.”</p></p><p><p>Coeur d’Alene was forecasted to see about 1 to 2 inches of snow, according to the weather service.</p></p><p><p>Those conditions are normal for this time of year, Miller said, and a contrast to last week when Spokane broke several warm-weather records after temperatures hovered between 50 and 60 degrees. </p></p><p><p>“Last week was the weird weather, this week is going to be more normal weather,” Miller said.</p></p><p><p>The Palouse and Columbia Basin were expected on Monday to see more snow than Spokane, with 1 to 2 inches in Pullman and 2 to 3 inches in Lewiston, according to a graphic from the National Weather Service in Spokane. </p></p><p><p>Wind gusts on Wednesday were expected to reach the 35 to 45 mph range for Spokane, the Columbia Basin, the Palouse and Wenatchee areas. The wind means milder weather with a high of 41 degrees, but Miller said it will probably not feel like the warmest day of the week due to the gusts.</p></p><p><p>About 8 to 10 inches was expected to fall Wednesday in surrounding mountain passes, but will likely miss hitting Spokane or Coeur d’Alene with substantial snowfall, he said.</p></p><p><p>“The metro areas will see a dusting at best for Wednesday,” Miller said.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Washington State, Miami to square off in Sun Bowl rematch

<p><p>Washington State will try for its eighth win of the year, and fourth under its new coach, when the Cougars cap this unique season on New Year’s Eve in a rare bowl-game rematch.</p></p><p><p>WSU (7-5) and Miami (7-5) are meeting again in the Sun Bowl – six years later.</p></p><p><p>Kickoff is set for 9 a.m. PST in El Paso on Dec. 31. CBS will broadcast the game from Sun Bowl Stadium.</p></p><p><p>On Dec. 26, 2015, in gusts and heavy snowfall, WSU picked up the first of two bowl victories in former coach Mike Leach’s tenure, topping the Hurricanes 20-14.</p></p><p><p>Since then, the Cougs have played in a bowl every winter – excluding coronavirus-affected 2020. They are 8-8 in bowl appearances, including another Sun Bowl win, a 33-27 decision over Purdue under coach Mike Price in 2001.</p></p><p><p>“This year’s team has worked tremendously hard to carry on the bowl tradition at Washington State and we look forward to writing the final chapter of our 2021 season,” recently hired coach Jake Dickert said in a press release.</p></p><p><p>The Cougars went 6-3 in conference play this year and had a slim chance of making the Pac-12 title game after their final game of the season. They were picked in preseason polls to finish last in the Pac-12 North.</p></p><p><p>They have won their past two games, both blowouts over Arizona and Washington. Roughly a day after WSU’s most lopsided Apple Cup triumph, Jake Dickert was lifted from interim to permanent coach.</p></p><p><p>The Hurricanes were competitive in Atlantic Coast Conference play all season, but fell late in a couple of seesaw matchups and suffered big losses to ranked foes Alabama – the top seed in the College Football Playoff bracket – and Michigan State.</p></p><p><p>Reports have emerged recently that Miami coach Manny Diaz may be on his way out.</p></p><p><p>Tickets for the Sun Bowl can be ordered at wsucougars.com, or by calling the Cougs’ ticket office as early as 9 a.m. Monday morning at 1-800-GO-COUGS.</p></p><p><p>Arizona State was picked to play Wisconsin in the Las Vegas Bowl, a destination Cougar fans seemed to be hoping for.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Union Pacific train derails in central Idaho

<p><p>A Union Pacific train derailed early Sunday morning in central Idaho.</p></p><p><p>The train derailed about 1:30 a.m. on the western edge of Hammett in Elmore County, about 60 miles southeast of Boise. Approximately 28 cars derailed but there were no injuries, said railway spokesperson Robynn Tysver.</p></p><p><p>The train was carrying a mix of commodities, she said, adding that one of the cars spilled steel plates.</p></p><p><p>No cause was immediately available. The accident was under investigation and cleanup work has begun, Tysver said.</p></p><p><p>The track was closed to train traffic.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Senate leader, presidential candidate Bob Dole dies at 98

<p><div class="copy-block row mb-4"><div class="col-12 columns"><p>TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Bob Dole, who overcame disabling war wounds to become a sharp-tongued Senate leader from Kansas, a Republican presidential candidate and then a symbol and celebrant of his dwindling generation of World War II veterans, has died. He was 98.</p><p>His wife, Elizabeth Dole, said in an announcement posted on social media that he died early Sunday morning in his sleep.</p><p>Dole announced in February 2021 that he’d been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. During his 36-year career on Capitol Hill, Dole became one of the most influential legislators and party leaders in the Senate, combining a talent for compromise with a caustic wit, which he often turned on himself but didn’t hesitate to turn on others, too.</p><p>He shaped tax policy, foreign policy, farm and nutrition programs and rights for the disabled, enshrining protections against discrimination in employment, education and public services in the Americans with Disabilities Act.</p><p>Today’s accessible government offices and national parks, sidewalk ramps and the sign-language interpreters at official local events are just some of the more visible hallmarks of his legacy and that of the fellow lawmakers he rounded up for that sweeping civil rights legislation 30 years ago.</p><p>Dole devoted his later years to the cause of wounded veterans, their fallen comrades at Arlington National Cemetery and remembrance of the fading generation of World War II vets.</p><p>Thousands of old soldiers massed on the National Mall in 2004 for what Dole, speaking at the dedication of the World War II Memorial there, called “our final reunion.” He’d been a driving force in its creation.</p><p>“Our ranks have dwindled,” he said then. “Yet if we gather in the twilight it is brightened by the knowledge that we have kept faith with our comrades.”</p><p>Long gone from Kansas, Dole made his life in the capital, at the center of power and then in its shadow upon his retirement, living all the while at the storied Watergate complex. When he left politics and joined a law firm staffed by prominent Democrats, he joked that he brought his dog to work so he would have another Republican to talk to.</p><p>He tried three times to become president. The last was in 1996, when he won the Republican nomination only to see President Bill Clinton reelected. He sought his party’s presidential nomination in 1980 and 1988 and was the 1976 GOP vice presidential candidate on the losing ticket with President Gerald Ford.</p><p>Through all of that he carried the mark of war. Charging a German position in northern Italy in 1945, Dole was hit by a shell fragment that crushed two vertebrae and paralyzed his arms and legs. The young Army platoon leader spent three years recovering in a hospital and never regained use of his right hand.</p><p>To avoid embarrassing those trying to shake his right hand, Dole always clutched a pen in it and reached out with his left.</p><p>Dole could be merciless with his rivals, whether Democrat or Republican. When George H.W. Bush defeated him in the 1988 New Hampshire Republican primary, Dole snapped: “Stop lying about my record.” If that pales next to the scorching insults in today’s political arena, it was shocking at the time.</p><p>But when Bush died in December 2018, old rivalries were forgotten as Dole appeared before Bush’s casket in the Capitol Rotunda. As an aide lifted him from his wheelchair, an ailing and sorrowful Dole slowly steadied himself and saluted his one-time nemesis with his left hand, his chin quivering.</p><p>In a vice presidential debate two decades earlier with Walter Mondale, Dole had famously and audaciously branded all of America’s wars that century “Democrat wars.” Mondale shot back that Dole had just “richly earned his reputation as a hatchet man.”</p><p>Dole at first denied saying what he had just said on that very public stage, then backed down, and eventually acknowledged he’d gone too far. “I was supposed to go for the jugular,” he said, “and I did — my own.”</p><p>For all of his bare-knuckle ways, he was a deep believer in the Senate as an institution and commanded respect and even affection from many Democrats. Just days after Dole announced his dire cancer diagnosis, President Joe Biden visited him at his home to wish him well. The White House said the two were close friends from their days in the Senate.</p><p>Biden recalled in a statement Sunday that one of his first meetings outside the White House after being sworn-in as president was with the Doles at their Washington home.</p><p>“Like all true friendships, regardless of how much time has passed, we picked up right where we left off, as though it were only yesterday that we were sharing a laugh in the Senate dining room or debating the great issues of the day, often against each other, on the Senate floor,” Biden said. “I saw in his eyes the same light, bravery, and determination I’ve seen so many times before.”</p><p>Dole won a seat in Congress in 1960, representing a western Kansas House district. He moved up to the Senate eight years later when Republican incumbent Frank Carlson retired.</p><p>There, he antagonized his Senate colleagues with fiercely partisan and sarcastic rhetoric, delivered at the behest of President Richard Nixon. The Kansan was rewarded for his loyalty with the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee in 1971, before Nixon’s presidency collapsed in the Watergate scandal.</p><p>He served as a committee chairman, majority leader and minority leader in the Senate during the 1980s and ’90s. Altogether, he was the Republicans’ leader in the Senate for nearly 11½ years, a record until Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell broke it in 2018. It was during this period that he earned a reputation as a shrewd, pragmatic legislator, tireless in fashioning compromises.</p><p>After Republicans won Senate control, Dole became chairman of the tax-writing Finance Committee and won acclaim from deficit hawks and others for his handling of a 1982 tax bill, in which he persuaded Ronald Reagan’s White House to go along with increasing revenues by $100 billion to ease the federal budget deficit.</p><p>“When Bob asked you to do something, that was it. I can tell you so many things we were able to solve by invoking Bob’s name,” said former GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, who served alongside Dole in Kansas’ congressional delegation.</p><p>But some more conservative Republicans were appalled that Dole had pushed for higher taxes. Georgia Rep. Newt Gingrich branded him “the tax collector for the welfare state.”</p><p>Dole became Senate leader in 1985 and served as either majority or minority leader, depending on which party was in charge, until he resigned in 1996 to devote himself to pursuit of the presidency.</p><p>That campaign, Dole’s last, was fraught with problems from the start. He ran out of money in the spring, and Democratic ads painted the GOP candidate and the party’s divisive House speaker, Gingrich, with the same brush: as Republicans out to eliminate Medicare. Clinton won by a large margin.</p><p>He also faced questions about his age because he was running for president at age 73 — well before Biden was elected weeks before turning 78 in 2020.</p><p>Relegated to private life, Dole became an elder statesman who helped Clinton get a chemical-weapons treaty passed. He also tended his wife’s political ambitions. Elizabeth Dole ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, then served a term as senator from North Carolina.</p><p>Dole also endeared himself to the public as the self-deprecating pitchman for the anti-impotence drug Viagra and other products.</p><p>He also continued to comment on issues and endorse political candidates.</p><p>In 2016, Dole initially backed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for the GOP presidential nomination. He later warmed to Donald Trump and eventually endorsed him.</p><p>But six weeks after the 2020 election, with Trump still refusing to concede and promoting unfounded claims of voter fraud, Dole told The Kansas City Star, “The election is over.”</p><p>He said: “It’s a pretty bitter pill for Trump, but it’s a fact he lost.”</p><p>In September 2017, Congress voted to award Dole its highest expression of appreciation for distinguished contributions to the nation, a Congressional Gold Medal. That came a decade after he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.</p><p>Congress honored Dole again in 2019 by promoting him from Army captain to colonel, in recognition of the military service that earned him two Purple Hearts.</p><p>Robert Joseph Dole was born July 22, 1923, in Russell, a western Kansas farming and oil community. He was the eldest of four children. His father ran a cream and egg business and managed a grain elevator, and his mother sold sewing machines and vacuum cleaners to help support the family during the Depression. Dole attended the University of Kansas for two years before enlisting in the Army in 1943.</p><p>Dole met Phyllis Holden, a therapist at a military hospital, as he was recovering from his war wounds in 1948. They were married and had a daughter, Robin. The couple would divorce in 1972.</p><p>Dole began his political career while a student at Washburn University, winning a seat in the Kansas House of Representatives.</p><p>He met his second wife, Elizabeth Dole, while she was working for the Nixon White House. She also served on the Federal Trade Commission and as transportation secretary and labor secretary while Dole was in the Senate. They married in 1975.</p><p>Dole published a memoir about his wartime experiences and recovery, “One Soldier’s Story,” in 2005. The Dole Institute of Politics on the University of Kansas keeps an archive of World War II veterans from Kansas.</p><p></p><p><em>Woodward contributed from Washington. Associated Press writers Jennifer C. Kerr and Candace Smith contributed to this report.</em></p><p></p><p></p><p></p><p></p></div></div></p> ... Continue Reading

'Veterans here are tired of being guinea pigs’: After more than a year, new health record system still causing problems at Spokane VA hospital

<p><p>Mike Tonkyn had to go to Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center three times to get his blood drawn.</p></p><p><p>Charlie Bourg’s cancer diagnosis was delayed several months, and now he needs surgery.</p></p><p><p>Heather Hill saw several of her patients suffer withdrawals after going weeks without medications to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.</p></p><p><p>Others went months without insulin, accidentally got a double-dose of remdesivir to treat COVID-19 or went through withdrawals after going without anti-seizure medication.</p></p><p><p>More than a year after the Department of Veterans Affairs began testing a new electronic health record system at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center, veterans who rely on the Spokane hospital and the health care workers who count on the software to do their jobs say flaws in the system continue to threaten patients’ safety, even as VA last week announced plans to roll it out in Walla Walla and other cities early next year.</p></p><p><p>Some Mann-Grandstaff employees believe it’s only a matter of time before a death or serious harm occurs as a result of problems with the system, which they use to coordinate care and track patients’ medical histories, test results, medications and other information.</p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim"><!--[photo id=756644]--></span></p></p><p><p>“This is dangerous, and they’re going to inflict it on my fellow veterans if we just sit back and we’re silent,” Monica McLaughlin, a Navy veteran and nurse at Mann-Grandstaff, told The Spokesman-Review.</p></p><p><p>When VA announced in June 2017 it would award a $10 billion contract to Cerner Corp. to replace its existing electronic health record system, then-President Donald Trump promised it would mean “faster, better and far better quality care” for the 9 million veterans VA serves and called the move “one of the biggest wins for our veterans in decades.”</p></p><p><p>Instead, more than a year after the department started piloting the system at Mann-Grandstaff and its outpatient clinics in Coeur d’Alene, Sandpoint, Wenatchee and Libby, Montana, veterans and VA employees say it continues to cause safety risks and delays in care for 28,000 veterans and has left their roughly 1,700 employees exhausted and demoralized.</p></p><p><p>Despite deciding earlier this year the system was not ready to safely deploy at other VA facilities, which still use an older system, the department has continued to use the Inland Northwest as a testing ground to help other clinics and hospitals avoid the problems that have made about two-thirds of Mann-Grandstaff employees consider quitting, according to a recent internal survey.</p></p><p><p>VA Secretary Denis McDonough has said he remains committed to the program, which aims to improve coordination between VA and Defense Department medical facilities by adopting a similar system in both agencies. The program, far behind schedule, is now projected to cost at least $21 billion. </p></p><p><p>Meanwhile, two former senior VA officials who oversaw medical records say the project was misguided from the start and unlikely to improve on the system it was meant to replace.</p></p><p><p>In more than 40 interviews with The Spokesman-Review, veterans and current and former VA employees described a system that slows treatment and threatens patient safety more than a year after a transition VA officials described as “flawless.” While some declined to speak on the record, fearing retribution, others chose to come forward after months of warnings they said fell on deaf ears within VA, and because they believe the system’s flaws endanger veterans.</p></p><p><p>The problems described in those interviews have been corroborated by congressional oversight hearings, reports from government watchdog agencies and a “strategic review” VA conducted earlier this year.</p></p><p><p>“It’s got to be fixed,” said Bob Bossi, a 75-year-old Army veteran in Coeur d’Alene. “Veterans here are tired of being guinea pigs. Either give us back the old system or fix this one.”</p></p><p><p>Like other veterans who spoke with The Spokesman-Review, Bossi has struggled to access and use a new online portal to contact his doctors, schedule appointments and reorder prescriptions. In interviews, veterans almost universally praised the efforts of Mann-Grandstaff employees, who collectively worked 61,000 hours of overtime in fiscal year 2020.</p></p><p><p><!--[teaser id=985201]--></p></p><p><p>In written responses to questions from The Spokesman-Review, VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes emphasized that VA prioritizes patient safety and is working with Cerner “to address the numerous issues identified by the staff and leadership” at Mann-Grandstaff.</p></p><p><p>“We have listened to our team at Mann-Grandstaff and will continue to provide support and resolutions for Mann-Grandstaff while applying their lessons learned to future site deployments,” said Hayes, declining to give a specific timeline for resolving the issues.</p></p><p><p>A spokesman for Cerner declined to answer detailed questions on the record, deferring to VA. But in a written statement, Brian Sandager, general manager and senior vice president of Cerner’s government services division, said the company “remains dedicated to VA and takes our responsibility to Veterans and providers seriously.”</p></p><p><p>“We continue to engage on-site at Mann-Grandstaff, working alongside providers and staff to gather lessons learned and implement changes as directed by VA,” Sandager said. “It’s important to get this right and we are committed to the mission.”</p></p><p><p>McDonough, who took the helm at VA in February, said Nov. 9 the department is “listening very closely to our personnel in Spokane” and thanked employees at Mann-Grandstaff for their “forbearance” and “dedication to testing out this new capability,” assuring them “the lessons that you’re providing us will be implemented before we deploy to any further sites.”</p></p><p><p>After initially planning to roll out the Cerner system at its much larger network of facilities in Western Washington shortly after Mann-Grandstaff, VA says it will deploy the system only when each facility has completed training in a simulated “sandbox” environment that doesn’t involve real patients.</p></p><p><p>Although the two former VA officials say Mann-Grandstaff could go back to the system other facilities still use – known as VistA – within a matter of days, Hayes confirmed Thursday that “VA does not plan for Mann-Grandstaff to revert back to VistA while the issues are being resolved.”</p></p><p><p>According to a schedule VA released Wednesday, which the department said is subject to change, the system is slated for deployment in March 2022 at facilities in Walla Walla and Columbus, Ohio, followed by others throughout Western Washington and in Idaho, Oregon, Alaska, Ohio and Michigan.</p></p><p><h3>‘The Cerner system works’</h3></p><p><p>On the morning of Nov. 2, VA Deputy Secretary Donald Remy, who was confirmed by the Senate in July to lead the health record program, told a House subcommittee charged with overseeing the effort that the department was on track and “learning from the implementation mistakes of the past.”</p></p><p><p>“The Cerner system works,” Remy said, “and I believe we’ve properly positioned it for success.”</p></p><p><p>An hour later in Spokane, the Cerner system went down.</p></p><p><p>Hayes confirmed that the outage, which lasted 80 minutes, followed 10 days in September and October where “parts of the Cerner system were inaccessible.”</p></p><p><p>In addition to four “full outages tied to the Cerner system” since it was implemented at Mann-Grandstaff on Oct. 24, 2020, Hayes said there have been “several downtime episodes where access to the Cerner system or part of the Cerner system was impacted,” either by a Cerner outage or a connectivity problem related to systems at VA or the Defense Department, which started transitioning its health care system to a similar Cerner platform in 2017.</p></p><p><p>When the system goes down, work grinds to a halt across the medical center and its clinics.</p></p><p><p>Gary Bilendy, a Marine Corps and Army veteran who has worked as a nurse for nearly 20 years and the past five at Mann-Grandstaff, said because staff members don’t know if the system will take minutes or hours to get restored, they have to write notes and enter information into a patient’s chart by hand, then enter it into the Cerner system or scan it in when it comes back online. That process takes extra time as the workers take special care to enter patients’ information correctly.</p></p><p><p>“I am a veteran, and I like taking care of veterans,” Bilendy said. “And I feel like we’re the last line of defense. If they get good health care, it’s the people doing it, not the VA.”</p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim"><!--[photo id=756645]--></span></p></p><p><p>Mike Tonkyn counts himself lucky to be “pretty darn healthy,” but the 71-year-old Spokane resident goes to Mann-Grandstaff for a yearly checkup, aware that he is at risk of diabetes, cancer and other health problems because he was exposed to the toxic herbicide Agent Orange during his time in the Marines.</p></p><p><p>In September, Tonkyn headed to the lab at Mann-Grandstaff after his doctor ordered some blood work, but when he sat down and rolled up his sleeve, the phlebotomist told him they couldn’t do a blood draw because the order was missing, apparently lost in the new health record system.</p></p><p><p>When he returned several days later to try again, the waiting area was packed. After a while, an employee came out and explained that the Cerner system had gone down and anyone who wasn’t there for an urgent blood draw would have to come back another day.</p></p><p><p>“They were just as frustrated as us,” said Tonkyn, who finally got his blood drawn on his third trip to the lab. “Of course, there were some noncognizant people in the waiting room yelling at them. I could see why their morale would go down.”</p></p><p><p>VA’s Office of Inspector General, an independent watchdog agency within the department, <a href="https://www.oversight.gov/report/va/deficiencies-infrastructure-readiness-deploying-va%C3%A2%C2%80%C2%99s-new-electronic-health-record-system" target="_blank">warned in an April 2020 report</a> that “critical physical and information technology infrastructure upgrades had not been completed at Mann-Grandstaff” and its associated clinics.</p></p><p><p>Current and former VA employees say the outages are just one example of a system that was brought to the Inland Northwest without being proven safe and before VA facilities had even the basic IT infrastructure – like computers and reliable high-speed internet connections – they needed to use it.</p></p><p><p>Despite VA twice delaying the rollout in Spokane – originally scheduled for March 2020, just as COVID-19 arrived in Spokane County – Carolyn Clancy, who served as VA’s acting deputy secretary until Remy’s confirmation, acknowledged to lawmakers in July that Mann-Grandstaff “probably was not ready to go live.”</p></p><p><p>While D.C. officials debated and delayed the Cerner rollout, staff at Mann-Grandstaff were treating veterans sick with COVID-19 from the Spokane Veterans Home, which <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2020/apr/11/10-more-residents-of-spokane-veterans-home-test-po" target="_blank">in April 2020 was in the midst of a large outbreak</a> that claimed <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2020/may/19/another-veteran-who-contracted-covid-19-dies-at-sp" target="_blank">10 lives</a> and sent many residents to the medical center for hospitalization. The virus would find its way back to the care home just a few months later.</p></p><p><p>Oversight agencies, lawmakers and VA employees raised numerous red flags in the months ahead of the Oct. 24, 2020, “go-live” date at Mann-Grandstaff, but the department forged ahead even as the staff faced the additional strain of providing care during a pandemic.</p></p><p><p>“Despite the uncertainties of COVID-19, we have endeavored to move forward with no stoppage in work, no pause, no delay, and without safety issues to VA facilities and trainers,” John Windom, executive director of VA’s Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization, told lawmakers Sept. 30, 2020, three weeks before the Cerner launch at Mann-Grandstaff.</p></p><p><p>In that same congressional hearing, Travis Dalton, then president of Cerner’s government services division, said the company was “pleased with our accomplishments to date” and would “continue our march forward to the deployment of the electronic health record solution next month at Mann-Grandstaff.”</p></p><p><p>“Many lessons have been learned and incorporated,” Dalton told lawmakers. “We are ready.”</p></p><p><p>In a July hearing, Clancy suggested Windom’s office, which led the Cerner rollout until a reorganization VA announced Wednesday, had expected a rocky transition and figured problems were inevitable.</p></p><p><p>“I think they believed that it was important not to keep delaying the initial deployment, that we would learn a great deal, and they didn’t expect it to go well,” she said. “I would have to surmise that they believed that we should get on with it and learn more, because this is how we actually deploy systems like this on the ground.”</p></p><p><p>Ed Meagher, who served as VA’s deputy chief information officer and chief technology officer between 2001 and 2006, said the department could have foreseen the problems by building a model based on what it knew about VA and Cerner’s IT infrastructure and the expected workload.</p></p><p><p>“From a technology point of view, it’s absolutely malpractice that you haven’t modeled this,” Meagher said in an interview. “If you don’t have that, you’re working off of Cerner marketing material, and you’re putting the future of the VA at stake.”</p></p><p><h3>‘They are so lucky no one died’</h3></p><p><p>For veterans enrolled at Mann-Grandstaff, the most immediate change with the advent of the Cerner system was a new online portal to schedule appointments, order prescription refills and send secure messages to their doctors.</p></p><p><p>To inform veterans of the change, VA hosted virtual “town hall” meetings on three consecutive Wednesdays in October 2020. Joe Harmer, a 76-year-old Army veteran who lives in Greenacres, was on all three calls and said VA and Cerner representatives spent more time extolling the virtues of the new system than explaining how to use it.</p></p><p><p>“You couldn’t believe how much they glad-handed each other,” Harmer said. “I mean, ‘This is the greatest program, and I want to introduce so-and-so, they’re with that company and, wow, this is gonna be dynamite.’ And they’d come on and just romance the hell out of it.”</p></p><p><p>Harmer relies on several prescriptions to treat post-traumatic stress disorder related to his time in Vietnam and peripheral neuropathy, a nerve condition linked to Agent Orange exposure he describes as feeling like walking barefoot on broken glass. When he struggled to log into the new portal to reorder his medications, he drove to Mann-Grandstaff with his computer and asked for help, but even the VA employee there couldn’t figure out how to log in.</p></p><p><p>Sarah Simonson, 41, served in the Air Force and works as the sole veterans service officer in mostly rural Douglas County in central Washington, where the more limited services of the Wenatchee clinic make the online portal a vital tool for veterans to access care.</p></p><p><p>While it’s not part of her official scope of work, Simonson said she’s frequently had to help veterans log into the portal over the past year, as VA – like other health care providers – has scaled back in-person treatment and encouraged patients to use online services.</p></p><p><p>“That transition has been extremely difficult, and I don’t consider myself technologically inept,” she said. “It was difficult enough for me.”</p></p><p><p>In interviews, more than a dozen veterans described struggling to navigate a confusing series of login screens. Those who successfully logged in experienced repeated freezing and a messaging system that worked only intermittently.</p></p><p><p>One of the most common problems after the Cerner transition was that medical records and prescriptions failed to transfer to the new system, forcing employees to enter that information manually. Many veterans count on VA to send their prescription refills by mail, and in some cases incorrect information resulted in medication being mailed to the wrong addresses.</p></p><p><p>Elizabeth Parker waited as long as she could to log into the new patient portal, knowing it might have some kinks. When she finally logged in for the first time, the 63-year-old Army veteran realized none of her prescriptions had transferred to the new system.</p></p><p><p>Running low on important medications, she frantically called her doctor, the pharmacy at Mann-Grandstaff and finally the office of U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Spokane Republican. It took a week before a VA doctor manually entered her prescriptions into the system.</p></p><p><p>In a hearing Nov. 2, McMorris Rodgers said her office had by then received 138 complaints from veterans directly related to the Cerner system.</p></p><p><p>The prospect of not having her medications was immensely stressful for Parker, who has post-traumatic stress disorder and diabetes and is a breast cancer survivor. It took a week of crying and advocating for herself on countless phone calls to get her medications. The fighting took a toll, she said, and left her contemplating suicide.</p></p><p><p>Earlier this fall, Parker had to go through the same process again to get supplies to treat her diabetes, which were also not listed in her patient portal.</p></p><p><p>“When I am trying to stick up for myself, I am pretty feisty,” Parker said. “But what about the people that can’t do that, who are really sick and old?”</p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim"><!--[photo id=756646]--></span></p></p><p><p>Heather Hill, a psychotherapist in Wenatchee, said many of her patients went for months without important psychiatric drugs and other medications after the Cerner transition.</p></p><p><p>“At the very beginning, all of them got screwed,” Hill said. “Things that were preserving people’s lives now were just falling through the cracks.”</p></p><p><p>Hill, who owns Central Washington Veterans Counseling and works with VA patients through a program that lets veterans see private providers, said the scariest case was a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder, nerve damage and a traumatic brain injury from being hit by an improvised explosive device.</p></p><p><p>Hill said that veteran, a Bronze Star recipient, called her two months after he stopped receiving his prescriptions from VA, suffering severe withdrawals from multiple psychiatric and nerve pain medications and confused about how to get refills through the new system.</p></p><p><p>“My fear was that somebody was going to die.” Hill said. “They are so lucky no one died.”</p></p><p><p>In response to a question from The Spokesman-Review in February, Laura Kroupa, then chief medical officer for VA’s Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization, said approximately 24,000 veterans received medications through the Spokane VA when the Cerner system launched in October 2020. As of Feb. 9, more than three months later, Kroupa said Mann-Grandstaff reported providing pharmacy services to roughly two-thirds of those veterans.</p></p><p><p>When veterans had trouble ordering prescriptions or messaging their providers through the online portal, they often turned to calling VA, but the influx of calls left the phone lines overwhelmed. Out of options, many wound up going to Mann-Grandstaff or its clinics for help.</p></p><p><p>Jerry Ring, a 77-year-old Army veteran who lives in Spokane, gave up on the new patient portal after seeking help from a patient advocate at Mann-Grandstaff and has taken to walking into the pharmacy with a bag full of pill bottles when he needs refills.</p></p><p><p>Dick Edwards, an 88-year-old “atomic veteran” with cancer linked to radiation exposure from his Army service during nuclear bomb tests in the Marshall Islands, was used to sending his doctor secure messages through the old patient portal. After making several calls that were routed to other VA facilities, apparently because phone lines in Spokane were overwhelmed, he gave up on the new web portal and now drives from his South Hill home whenever he needs help.</p></p><p><p>“It’s just utter chaos,” Edwards said. “They really fouled things up when they changed that. It’s not good at all.”</p></p><p><h3>‘I feel so sorry for the employees’</h3></p><p><p>This summer, a patient in the Mann-Grandstaff urgent care went into a fatal heart rhythm, and the team jumped into action to save their life.</p></p><p><p>McLaughlin, a nurse there, was caring for additional patients, providing backup and looking on while the team worked to save the veteran’s life.</p></p><p><p>The prepared medication was ready to go, rolled out on a cart. The team had practiced for these moments.</p></p><p><p>The physician set up the medication drip and tried to scan it into the patient’s health record. It wouldn’t scan. More staff came down to help. In the meantime, the experienced team began administering the medication they knew would save the patient’s life, all while trying to make sure the proper dose got recorded in the patient’s record.</p></p><p><p>The Cerner system has created an added stress when it comes to transferring patients out of the hospital. Mann-Grandstaff <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/sep/21/mann-grandstaff-va-medical-center-delays-reopening" target="_blank">does not have a 24-hour emergency department</a>, and some patients have to be transferred to other local hospitals for care if it exceeds the service capacity at VA.</p></p><p><p>When the patients are transferred, it’s vital that their records are accurate, so they don’t receive a double-dose of certain medications when they arrive at the new hospital, McLaughlin said.</p></p><p><p>This has meant, at times, that VA staffers have had to write the dose information, manually enter it into a patient’s record after the fact and send details via fax after the patient has left in the ambulance. It also has meant a stressful phone call to an already busy nurse at the transfer hospital to communicate what the Cerner system will not.</p></p><p><p>“Time is of the essence with these meds, with the right dosage and time,” McLaughlin said. “Something as simple as an antibiotic, if they get a double dose, they could have consequences.”</p></p><p><p>The urgent care clinic at Mann-Grandstaff has become a repository for patients who can’t reach their primary care doctor, especially when they can’t get refills for important prescriptions for things like insulin, antidepressants and medicine to treat heart conditions or prevent seizures. And while patients coming to urgent care for medication refills is something that happened pre-Cerner, the new system has exacerbated the issue, McLaughlin said.</p></p><p><p>Pharmacy staff sometimes send veterans home with a short-term supply of their medications while they sort out errors in the Cerner system. When that doesn’t happen in time, hospital employees often must deal with the results, caring for patients suffering withdrawals or other effects of missing medications.</p></p><p><p>Staff who spoke to The Spokesman-Review said that the full impact of the new electronic health record system is likely not fully known due to the rural nature of the Inland Northwest VA region. Many veterans who use the Spokane VA live counties away.</p></p><p><p>“We don’t know the effect this has had on veterans in rural areas with limited means of communication and limited means of travel,” McLaughlin said.</p></p><p><p>McLaughlin recalled one veteran who hadn’t received their regular insulin supplies for half a year, who arrived in urgent care looking for treatment. When this happens, staff file patient safety reports.</p></p><p><p>In an email sent to staff Oct. 8, Mann-Grandstaff Director Robert Fischer said employees had filed 576 patient safety reports related to the Cerner system in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Some of those reports are likely duplicates warning about the same issue, but despite repeated requests from Congress, VA has yet to release the details of those reports.</p></p><p><p>In that same email, Fischer emphasized to staff that patient safety is a top priority and “care delivery moves at the speed of safety at Mann-Grandstaff.” </p></p><p><p>As a result of that cautious pace, doctors and nurses have seen fewer patients. In a hearing just before the Cerner launch, Fischer told lawmakers Mann-Grandstaff had “an initial marching order that will put us at 25% of productivity at least for the first week.”</p></p><p><p>A July report by VA’s Office of Inspector General said while the department had failed to provide reliable data to show just how sharply productivity had fallen, Mann-Grandstaff leaders estimated providers were seeing half as many patients as they did before the facility made the switch to the Cerner system. An analysis of available data in the report noted that although some of the drop-off was due to the pandemic, the new system had caused a “significant decrease” in productivity. </p></p><p><p>VA spokesman Hayes declined to provide details on how productivity has changed since the Cerner launch, citing “intrinsic differences between the two platforms and how appointments and encounters are counted,” but said trends show an “increase in provider appointments and capacity compared to the first three months following initial implementation.”</p></p><p><p>While Fischer told lawmakers in September 2020 that Mann-Grandstaff had hired more than 100 additional staff to offset that lost productivity, veterans described having to wait longer than usual for appointments.</p></p><p><p>The failure of VA facilities to accurately report wait times was the subject of <a href="https://www.vox.com/2014/9/26/18080592/va-scandal-explained" target="_blank">a national scandal in 2014</a>, yet Mann-Grandstaff has been removed from <a href="https://www.accesstocare.va.gov/PWT/SearchWaitTimes" target="_blank">the VA wait time website</a> since the Cerner launch.</p></p><p><p>When The Spokesman-Review asked why that information was not publicly available, Hayes said the facility was “exempted” from reporting wait times as a result of the transition to the Cerner system. He added the Veterans Health Administration is “exploring the different functionality” of the Cerner system to determine how to measure wait times.</p></p><p><p>A survey of 833 Mann-Grandstaff employees, whose results were shared internally in October and obtained by The Spokesman-Review, shows the Cerner system has had a devastating effect on employee morale: 83% of staff said their morale had worsened as a result of the Cerner system, 81% said it had increased burnout and nearly two-thirds said it had made them consider quitting.</p></p><p><p>Jason Ernsting, a Navy veteran who lives in Nine Mile Falls, sees that impact each time he goes to Mann-Grandstaff.</p></p><p><p>Ernsting, 53, relies on VA to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and debilitating pain from a back injury from his time in the Navy. After living in several parts of the country, he raved about the care he’s received in Spokane and called Mann-Grandstaff “the best VA out of all of them.”</p></p><p><p>“I feel so sorry for the employees,” Ernsting said. “I don’t see them smiling anymore. They’re beaten up, because they spend too much time having to reboot their system, wait for that to get up, or something that used to take two to three clicks now takes four times more.”</p></p><p><h3>When care is delayed</h3></p><p><p>Along with Cerner’s electronic health record system, Mann-Grandstaff also adopted a new scheduling system developed by Cerner, which was piloted at a facility in Columbus, Ohio, before the rollout in Spokane.</p></p><p><p>“We should all be proud of the (Cerner scheduling system) deployment,” Windom told lawmakers in September 2020, adding it “makes the scheduling experience and appointment management seamless for our veterans, increases scheduler productivity and tracks provider utilization to ensure efficient use of VA resources.”</p></p><p><p>The reality was just the opposite, according to a November report from VA’s Office of Inspector General that found the department “knew of but did not fully resolve significant limitations before and after implementing the system at the Columbus and Spokane facilities, leading to reduced effectiveness and increased risk of patient care delays.”</p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim"><!--[photo id=756647]--></span></p></p><p><p>Charlie Bourg knows he’s been a thorn in the side of Mann-Grandstaff administrators since he and other veterans staged a protest outside the building in 2017 to demand more transparency from the administration and better care, but the 67-year-old Army veteran from Chewelah, Washington, has nothing but good things to say about the VA health care workers he has counted on for more than a decade. </p></p><p><p>During a routine checkup in December 2020, Bourg’s primary care doctor at Mann-Grandstaff put in a referral for him to see a urologist in the same building after noticing the results of a blood test for prostate health.</p></p><p><p>It wasn’t the first time this had happened, and in the past the specialist’s office had reached out to Bourg to schedule an appointment. But that never happened, and when he saw his doctor for a different issue nine months later, she realized the referral had never reached the urology clinic.</p></p><p><p>Within a week, Bourg finally saw the urologist. Soon after, a biopsy found that he had an aggressive form of prostate cancer. He’s scheduled for surgery in January and hopes an upcoming test will find the cancer hasn’t spread, but he’s preparing for the prospect of radiation.</p></p><p><p>After seeing the biopsy results, Bourg said, his doctor told him the cancer likely could have been caught months earlier had the test been done when she first ordered the referral.</p></p><p><p>The Spokesman-Review could not confirm the cause of the lost referral, but in a July report VA’s Office of Inspector General quoted an official in the Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization saying that the version of the Cerner system employees were trained on was missing the “referral management” component, an issue the official admitted was “the biggest gap” in the training program.</p></p><p><p>“We’ve seen Cerner do so much damage to veterans where they’re not getting the care they need,” Bourg said, before quickly pivoting to the impact on health care workers. “They’re understaffed, they’re being run ragged and they don’t have any faith in the system anymore.”</p></p><p><p>Current and former Mann-Grandstaff employees reported a growing number of their colleagues quitting or reducing their hours in response to burnout and concerns about the Cerner system.</p></p><p><p>Hayes confirmed there has been “a recent trend of increasing staff departures from Mann-Grandstaff VAMC for a number of possible reasons, including but not limited to retirements, transfers to other VA facilities and resignations,” noting that burnout and resignations due to the pandemic are a problem throughout the U.S. health care sector.</p></p><p><p>In his Oct. 8 email, Fischer thanked his employees for helping to make the electronic health system “safer and more efficient” for all VA patients, but acknowledged that the Cerner transition has been difficult, testing “our collective resilience.” </p></p><p><h3>‘We are the beta test’</h3></p><p><p>According to VA officials, Congress and federal watchdog agencies, a major cause of all these problems has been inadequate training for VA staff and a lack of outreach to veterans to explain the perks of the Cerner system.</p></p><p><p>In a survey conducted by the Office of Inspector General after staff had used the new system for two or three months, just 5% of employees said they were able to use all four core functions of the system: finding relevant patient information, sharing that information, navigating the system’s different applications and documenting patient care.</p></p><p><p>The <a href="https://www.oversight.gov/report/VA/Training-Deficiencies-VA%C3%A2%C2%80%C2%99s-New-Electronic-Health-Record-System-Mann-Grandstaff-VA-Medical" target="_blank">July report</a> also noted VA officials had altered the results of a Cerner proficiency test to show 89% of employees had passed in their first three attempts. In reality, only half that amount – 44% – had passed in three tries or fewer.</p></p><p><p>In his Oct. 8 email to staff, Fischer said Mann-Grandstaff employees had attended 44,238 staff hours of training on the new system, or an average of about 26 hours for each of the roughly 1,700 employees.</p></p><p><p>But some employees at Mann-Grandstaff and a doctor who was involved in testing the Cerner system starting in 2017 say the real problem is the system they are being trained to use was never designed to meet VA’s needs.</p></p><p><p>In a lecture to the Association of VA Anesthesiologists in October, Art Wallace, the chief of anesthesiology at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, said the problems with the Cerner system start with the contract. The Spokesman-Review obtained slides and the text of Wallace’s lecture after they were shared among current and former VA employees.</p></p><p><p>In his presentation, Wallace explained that while most commercial electronic health record systems are essentially accounting software “with a text editor tacked on,” VistA – the system replaced by Cerner in Spokane – was written by clinicians with the goal of providing the best care possible, “with some accounting tacked on.”</p></p><p><p>“Cerner is providing an accounting system,” Wallace said. “The VA is trying to buy an electronic health care record system to provide clinical care. If the two parties have fundamentally different ideas of the purpose of a system, the customer will not get what they want.”</p></p><p><p>Cerner’s system is used in some 27,000 facilities around the world, but like other commercial health record systems, it is designed to bill insurance companies to pay for patients’ care.</p></p><p><p>Meanwhile, VA is essentially a single-payer health system akin to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.</p></p><p><p>That difference, Meagher said, is at the crux of the problems Mann-Grandstaff employees are having with the Cerner system, which requires far more steps for each process than VistA does.</p></p><p><p>“What Cerner does best is capture billable events via exhaustive questions and back-and-forth as you input things,” said Meagher, the former VA deputy chief information officer. “That’s what ties them up. They’re answering questions that are meaningless to them. They’re very meaningful to a commercial organization, because that’s how they get paid, but they’re meaningless to the VA.”</p></p><p><p>Wallace said in the lecture he was one of some 500 VA employees who made 10 weeklong trips to Cerner headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri, starting in 2018 to provide feedback on the system. Over the course of those sessions, Wallace said, he and other doctors made requests to improve the system that were repeatedly denied.</p></p><p><p>“When we examined forms and asked Cerner how long they took to fill out, on one form there were thousands of questions and Cerner estimated it would take 90 minutes,” Wallace said in the lecture. “We indicated the nurse had under five minutes to examine the patient, educate them, and fill out the form. Cerner indicated we should hire more staff.</p></p><p><p>“Rather than make the software compatible with people,” he said, “Cerner expects the VA to make the people compatible with their software.”</p></p><p><p>Other requests that were denied, according to Wallace’s lecture, included adding a field to specify a patient’s diagnosis when booking a surgical procedure – “essential in planning a case” – using consistent terms throughout the system and removing a “birth weight” field to make room for more relevant information.</p></p><p><p>Wallace told his colleagues he was concerned enough about the new system’s effect on anesthesiology, in which “loss of situational awareness from computer problems is dangerous,” that he pushed to visit Mann-Grandstaff and was eventually allowed to test the system for two days in Spokane.</p></p><p><p>“Testing at the Spokane VA identified more than 80 problems that made the system unusable and unsafe for clinical care,” he said, citing the example that 80% of common anesthesia medications were missing from the system. “None of the configuration changes we had agreed on were made.”</p></p><p><p>The Cerner system that launched at Mann-Grandstaff in October 2020 was what VA officials called “capability set 1.1,” an unfinished version of the software that did not include functions needed in larger hospitals. Months after go-live, VA officials said the parts of the system deployed in Spokane were working well.</p></p><p><p>“In the areas of the hospital that are very similar to the commercial system – for example, urgent care and inpatient care – it’s going very smoothly,” Kroupa told lawmakers in April.</p></p><p><p>But McLaughlin and Bilendy told The Spokesman-Review the system still crashes and glitches regularly, still won’t allow providers to scan some medications and takes much longer to use than VistA.</p></p><p><p>Kroupa retired in September and declined to comment for this story.</p></p><p><p>Current and former employees described training exercises that couldn’t be completed in the months leading up to October 2020 because the system wasn’t fully functional, while they were assured things would be ready by the go-live date.</p></p><p><p>Wallace said in his lecture VA and Cerner management did not allow testing of the software used at launch in Spokane, “violating multiple best practices in clinical informatics.” While he and other doctors in the rest of the nation’s VA facilities are still using VistA, Mann-Grandstaff employees continue to fight the erratic new system, coming up with workarounds and sharing them with each other.</p></p><p><p>“We are the beta test,” Bilendy said. “That’s what we’re doing now, and it’s not going well.”</p></p><p><p>McLaughlin likened the rollout of the Cerner system to the military’s development of the V-22 Osprey aircraft, which <a href="https://www.wired.com/2005/07/osprey" target="_blank">killed 30 people in training exercises</a> between 1991 and 2000 and cost billions of federal dollars.</p></p><p><p> Despite the 576 Cerner-related patient safety reports, many requests to change the system have apparently been ignored or denied. One reason is that changes aren’t entirely up to VA.</p></p><p><p>“Changes are something that we are usually negotiating with the Department of Defense,” Clancy said in a July hearing. “We have to notify them because, again, we’re trying to create this seamless experience for the servicemember who then becomes a veteran and so forth, so we don’t want to have two unique, customized systems.”</p></p><p><p>More than a year after the Cerner launch, VA officials have continued to chalk up the problems to inadequate training.</p></p><p><p>“We’re trying to make sure that we provide them with the information that they need,” Remy said in a November hearing, “so that they can understand how the system can actually make their jobs easier.”</p></p><p><p>For experienced health care professionals, some of them veterans themselves, this feels like gaslighting. </p></p><p><p>“These are people used to plugging bullet holes or doing their jobs under fire before they were medical professionals,” McLaughlin said. “When they tell us we don’t understand – or it’s a lack of comprehension and if we would just learn – we’re talking about people who worked with advanced weapons systems in the military.”</p></p><p><p>U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier, a Democrat who represents Wenatchee, used a Cerner system in her work as a pediatrician at Virginia Mason Medical Center before entering Congress in 2019.</p></p><p><p>After meeting with doctors and nurses at the Wenatchee VA clinic Nov. 9, Schrier said the problems they described were not a matter of user error.</p></p><p><p>“I don’t think this is a lack of training,” Schrier said. “I think this is a Cerner problem. It is the system that has a problem.”</p></p><p><p>Roger Baker, who served as VA’s chief information officer from 2009 to 2013, said the main mistake VA leaders have made is failing to understand why health care workers have not embraced the new system.</p></p><p><p>“It’s because they will not compromise one -tenth of 1% of care quality for veterans in order to roll out a new system,” Baker said. “The medical people just will not do that, and you can look at that as resistance to change, but I think it’s resistance to any reduction in care quality for the veterans they care for.”</p></p><p><p>On Wednesday, VA announced it would eliminate the Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization in favor of a new “program executive director” and three other new management positions.</p></p><p><p>In a progress report that accompanied the reorganization move, Remy acknowledged deploying a new health record system can be “highly disruptive” and restated that “VA remains committed to the Mann-Grandstaff implementation.”</p></p><p><p>According to an updated schedule included in the progress report, VA will deploy the Cerner system in Columbus, Ohio, on March 5, followed on March 26 by the Walla Walla VA Medical Center, including its clinics in Lewiston, Richland, Yakima and three more in northeastern Oregon.</p></p><p><p>The next rollouts are slated for Roseburg and White City, Oregon, on June 11, Boise on June 25 and Anchorage, Alaska, on July 16.</p></p><p><p>VA’s Puget Sound facilities, including its Seattle and American Lake hospitals and eight other facilities that serve about 120,000 veterans, are scheduled to make the switch Aug. 27. The final planned launches of 2022 are in Battle Creek, Saginaw and Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Oct. 8 and in Portland on Nov. 5.</p></p><p><p>Later on Wednesday, McDonough testified before the Senate VA Committee for an end-of-year update on the department.</p></p><p><p>“Our mission at VA is very simple,” he said in his opening remarks. “We must serve veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors as well as they have served us. That’s the promise we make at VA.”</p></p><p><p>Like other veterans who rely on Mann-Grandstaff, Joe Harmer, the Army veteran from Greenacres, said he’s worried the Cerner system could jeopardize that mission as VA expands its use around the country.</p></p><p><p>“The VA’s telling them they have to take on this system, but they’re just gonna punish these other veterans in these other areas if they do it, because it’s just not working,” Harmer said. “I really feel that the VA is giving us a second chance to die for our country.”</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Place your bets: Northern Quest, Spokane Tribe Casino entering the wide world of sports betting

<p><p>Wanna bet on who’s going to win the Super Bowl?</p></p><p><p>Now you can at one Airway Heights casino, with another not too far behind.</p></p><p><p>Northern Quest Resort &amp; Casino officially opened its newly remodeled sportsbook betting area to the public Saturday. The Turf Club Sports Book occupies a 2,300-square-foot area of the casino with state-of-the-art digital viewing screens, a dozen stadium recliners and a full-service bar.</p></p><p><p>The Spokane Tribe Casino, meanwhile, is hoping to launch its new state-of-the-art sports betting area later this month, said Javier De La Rosa, general manager of the Spokane Tribe Casino.</p></p><p><p>The Kalispel and Spokane tribes <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/sep/03/casinos-gearing-up-to-offer-legal-sports-betting" target="_blank">were granted federal approval in September</a> to allow sports betting on tribal grounds. The approvals were among those granted to 15 tribes that requested tribal compact amendments to allow sports betting. The Washington State Gambling Commission and Gov. Jay Inslee approved the amendments before they received final federal approval.</p></p><p><p>The Kalispel Tribe of Indians and Northern Quest formally unveiled the new Turf Club Sports Book on Friday with an invite-only special event. The expansion with Turf Sports Book has created about 20 new jobs, according to the casino.</p></p><p><p>The casino has partnered for all sports wagering platforms with IGT, a London-based gambling company that has partnerships with <a href="https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/igt-playsports-expands-leading-us-sports-betting-footprint-to-angel-of-the-winds-casino-resort-in-washington-state-301386826.html" target="_blank">two casinos in Washington</a>: Angel Of The Winds Casino Resort in Arlington and Snoqualmie Casino. The sportsbook area was designed by Olympia-based firm I-5 Design.</p></p><p><p>At Northern Quest, guests will be able to place bets using 24/7 electronic kiosks located inside the Turf Club and the EPIC sports bar. They can also go through retail counters that are open 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.</p></p><p><p>The casino plans to launch mobile sports betting in the spring , representatives said in a statement.</p></p><p><p>“Tribes not only have the expertise and infrastructure to effectively operate and regulate sports betting,” Kevin Zenishek, Northern Quest’s executive director of casino operations, said in a statement, “but they are also second-to-none when it comes to promoting responsible gaming and providing resources for problem gambling issues. We were proud to work closely with other tribes across the state as we all found a meaningful way to responsibly bring legal sports betting into Washington.”</p></p><p><p>At Spokane Tribe Casino, sports betting amenities were included with the casino’s roughly $30 million expansion that doubled the gaming space to about 40,000 square feet, increased the size of the nonsmoking gaming area to about 100 gaming machines (up from 30) and added a dedicated poker room as well as a new dining option.</p></p><p><p>The expansion increased the number of gaming machines at Spokane Tribe Casino from about 380 machines to nearly 700 and added six table games.</p></p><p><!--[photoset id=11612]--></p><p><p>De La Rosa said the casino has the capacity for roughly 300 more gaming machines, but the facility has spacers between the existing machines with plastic shielding amid COVID-19 concerns. Similarly, De La Rosa said the casino’s craps tables – once closed because of COVID-19 – have reopened with limits on the number of players per table.</p></p><p><p>The renovations have put Spokane Tribe Casino in a more competitive market with Northern Quest and Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort. Northern Quest and Spokane Tribe Casino are just less than 4 miles away from each other along U.S. Highway 2 in Airway Heights.</p></p><p><p>“It’s like any other business. If they do something well, it actually benefits us also,” De La Rosa said of Northern Quest. “They do a fantastic job, first of all, operating a massive gaming environment. Anything they do well elevates what the customer expectations are, and as a result, if you remain small, customers will gravitate toward where there’s more things to do and that environment.”</p></p><p><p>As the tribe hosted an official grand opening for the expansion late last month, De La Rosa said it’s too soon to evaluate the expansion’s impact on the casino’s bottom line.</p></p><p><p>“As far as foot traffic, we’ve seen an increase in foot traffic, definitely, by about 30%,” he said. “There’re different measures: restaurant occupancy, restaurant reservations and that. And those have increased, and that sort of gives us a gauge of how much busier we are.”</p></p><p><p>Like Northern Quest, Spokane Tribe Casino is partnering with a third-party sportsbook agency to bring sports betting to the casino.</p></p><p><p>The process in getting the partnering agency licensed and approved through the state has delayed the launch of the casino’s sportsbook, De La Rosa said. He said the casino will identify the partner once that is settled.</p></p><p><p>“Physically, we’re ready to go,” De La Rosa said, “but we have yet to take our first bet.”</p></p><p><p>The Spokane Tribe Casino launched the available new amenities with an early November soft opening, holding off on the grand opening until some logistical needs – namely, some staffing needs and pending equipment such as fixtures, kitchen hoods and countertops – were addressed, De La Rosa said.</p></p><p><p>As part of the expansion, Spokane Tribe Casino rebranded the casino-floor bar Whaluks into the Grill, a quick-service restaurant linked to the sports betting area. The menu includes sandwiches, burgers, nachos, soups and salads.</p></p><p><p>“We were having problems hiring hospitality personnel. Like every other casino, and even restaurant, in the hospitality industry, we were having problems with that type of staff,” he said. “We got really aggressive in our wages for cooks, specifically, and what we call back-of-the-house staff, kitchen staff. We wanted to make sure we were competitive, and the benchmark kept going up.”</p></p><p><p>Spokane Tribe Casino isn’t done growing, either.</p></p><p><p>An additional phase is underway to build out the casino’s footprint further with a new food court and concert venue. The food court, which is still in design, is expected to have three vendors at this point, De La Rosa said, while the expected capacity of the concert venue is more than 2,000 people.</p></p><p><p>De La Rosa said construction on the food court and concert venue is expected to take 12 to 14 months.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

The Dirt: 5.11 Tactical opening retail store in Spokane Valley; Jersey Mike's Subs planning location in Airway Heights

<p><p>Irvine, California-based 5.11 Tactical is opening a retail store in Spokane Valley, its first location in the state.</p></p><p><p>The apparel brand recently submitted a permit application with the city to renovate a 5,490-square-foot space in a commercial building at 4808 E. Sprague Ave., Suite 203. The building is also occupied by T-Mobile and Teacher’s World.</p></p><p><p>Goodale &amp; Barbieri Co. confirmed in an announcement last month it had leased space in the East Sprague Center to the apparel brand.</p></p><p><p>The store is expected to open in March, Aaron Browning, director of development for 5.11 Tactical, said in an email.</p></p><p><p>The decision to expand 5.11 Tactical to Spokane Valley was prompted by customer demand, Browning said.</p></p><p><p>5.11 Tactical offers a variety of outdoor clothing, footwear, uniforms and tactical equipment primarily geared toward law enforcement and military members, according to the company’s website.</p></p><p><p>The apparel brand has more than 87 retail stores nationwide, including a location in Portland.</p></p><p><p>San Diego, California-based Retail AMP Design is the project architect. A contractor for the project has not yet been determined.</p></p><p><p>Renovations are estimated to cost $165,000, according to the permit application.</p></p><p><h3>Jersey Mike’s plans Airway Heights location</h3></p><p><p>Jersey Mike’s Subs is opening a restaurant in Airway Heights, according to a building permit application filed with the city.</p></p><p><p>Lake Oswego, Oregon-based GA Miller Architecture filed the permit on behalf of the fast-casual restaurant chain to renovate a 1,470-square-foot space in a retail building at 9746 W. U.S. Highway 2, directly south of the North 40 Outfitters store.</p></p><p><p>Indigo Urgent Care is a tenant in the 8,500-square-foot retail building, which will also soon be home to MOD Pizza, according to a building permit approved by the city last month.</p></p><p><p>Renovations to prepare for Jersey Mike’s include installing kitchen hoods, electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, according to the permit.</p></p><p><p>The project contractor has not yet been determined.</p></p><p><p>The permit valuation is $190,000, according to the application.</p></p><p><p>Jersey Mike’s has two locations in the Spokane area. In addition to its planned Airway Heights restaurant, Jersey Mike’s is opening a location near Fred Meyer at 15609 E. Sprague Ave., Suite 2 in Spokane Valley.</p></p><p><h3>St. Charles Parish repairing fire damage</h3></p><p><p>St. Charles Parish in northwest Spokane is beginning renovations to repair damage sustained by a fire earlier this year.</p></p><p><p>St. Charles Parish filed a pre-development application with the city last week to repair sections of the building damaged by fire and reconfigure walls for its administration and rectory areas at 4515 N. Alberta St.</p></p><p><p>The church’s administrative offices and an adjacent school sustained heavy damage in a March fire, and repairs were estimated to cost nearly $2 million, according to a Spokesman-Review article <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/mar/18/fire-at-st-charles-elementary-school-causes-signif" target="_blank">published that same month.</a></p></p><p><p>St. Charles Parish did not specify renovation costs in the pre-development application.</p></p><p><p>Garco Construction, of Spokane, is the project contractor.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Airway Heights seeks new well on Spokane aquifer, but city and Riverkeeper urge caution

<p><p>The city of Airway Heights wants to dig a new well over Spokane’s aquifer in an effort to provide citizens with clean drinking water following contamination discovered in 2017, but Spokane River advocates and the city are urging a more thorough review of the consequences.</p></p><p><p>Airway Heights has been buying water from the city of Spokane since the discovery of polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2017/may/03/testing-confirms-chemical-contamination-in-residen" target="_blank">municipal wells four years ago</a>. The chemicals, which are being studied for their health effects but have been linked in clinical studies <a href="https://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/Contaminants/PFAS#HealthConcerns" target="_blank">to certain types of cancer and birth defects</a>, are believed to have leached into the groundwater from firefighting foam used in exercises on nearby Fairchild Air Force Base, which has prompted <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/aug/18/private-well-owners-near-site-of-fairchild-contami" target="_blank">several studies</a> and <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2020/apr/24/washington-doc-sues-federal-government-over-chemic" target="_blank">lawsuits</a>.</p></p><p><p>The state Legislature set aside $15 million in its <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/apr/24/legislature-passes-63-billion-capital-budget-with" target="_blank">most recent capital budget to help build a new well for Airway Heights</a>. The city is proposing digging the water source near the Seven Mile Road bridge, <a href="https://apps.ecology.wa.gov/separ/Main/SEPA/Record.aspx?SEPANumber=202105936" target="_blank">according to documents filed</a> with the state’s Department of Ecology.</p></p><p><p>“We’ve spent millions of dollars in terms of trying to provide for an alternative water supply,” said Albert Tripp, Airway Heights city administrator. “Every year that we continue to do this is costing the community and taxpayers.”</p></p><p><p>Airway Heights is applying for what’s known as a “new mitigated” water right on the Spokane Valley/Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, the same 10 trillion-gallon water source that provides drinking water for tens of thousands of people in Spokane and Kootenai counties. Their existing contaminated wells are above a different aquifer system, known as the Columbia River Basalt Group formations.</p></p><p><p>The state’s Ecology Department is reviewing a request to pull the same amount of water from the Spokane aquifer that Airway Heights would otherwise be using from the Columbia River basalt system. Airway Heights hired a contractor to perform a study that demonstrates water drawn for use from the new well would be mitigated by water that isn’t being pumped out of the West Plains and is instead recharging the Spokane Aquifer.</p></p><p><p>“They’re giving up some existing rights to mitigate for the new permit,” Jaime Short, the water resources program section manager for the Ecology Department, said this week.</p></p><p><p>In essence, Airway Heights is arguing they’re moving a straw in the same cup of water. But the city of Spokane, and the Spokane Riverkeeper, say Ecology should be doing more to make sure that’s the case before receiving Ecology approval.</p></p><p><p>“Is the water that they’re pumping up from the Spokane River, is that going to go back down to the Spokane River?” said Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs. “That’s what’s unclear to me based on the research they’ve done so far.”</p></p><p><p>Beggs signed a letter, along with Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward, encouraging Airway Heights to undergo a full environmental review of the project before selecting a well site and digging. <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/documents/2021/dec/02/city-spokane-letter-airway-heights-regarding-new-w" target="_blank">The letter argues that the proposal</a> is “contrary to statute, case law and Ecology’s policy.”</p></p><p><p>Spokane Riverkeeper Jerry White said he’s worried that drawing additional water from the Spokane aquifer would negatively affect the amount of water flowing in the Spokane River. White noted that <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2020/aug/06/spokane-river-flow-rule-was-properly-set-state-sup" target="_blank">the state Supreme Court recently upheld rulemaking</a> requiring a minimum instream flow in the river during summer months, though it was less than what environmental groups had sued to get.</p></p><p><p>“We do know that the Spokane River is struggling to meet its instream flows,” White said. “It’s very concerning to us.”</p></p><p><p>Short said Ecology shared that concern.</p></p><p><p>“We are on the same page with everyone else,” she said.</p></p><p><p>Short said that providing mitigating water for a new well may “really be the only path forward” for Airway Heights. The city could also buy a right from an upstream source, but demand is high and they are difficult to find.</p></p><p><p>White said he empathized with Airway Heights, having to find a new water source based on contamination that they weren’t responsible for putting in the ground.</p></p><p><p>“But again, looking forward with a changing climate, and lower flows, our understanding was we would never see a new water right issued on the Spokane River,” White said.</p></p><p><p>Beggs said the new well request ignored the possibility of pumping and treating the water, though such an option would incur ongoing filtration costs, according to a 2018 study by <a href="https://pfas-1.itrcweb.org/fact_sheets_page/pfas_fact_sheet_remediation_3_15_18.pdf" target="_blank">the Washington, D.C.-based Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council</a>.</p></p><p><p>Tripp said it was “in the best interests of the community and the region” for the West Plains to have “a noncontaminated, sustainable water source.”</p></p><p><p>Tripp said the city hoped to begin construction on the well, and transmission infrastructure to bring the well up to the West Plains from the river basin, next year. Ecology plans to review the documents submitted for environmental review and make a draft recommendation, that would then be subject to public comments, sometime in the coming months.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Motley Fool: Playing defense

<p><p>Defense specialist Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) has quite a diverse business, including aeronautics (about 40% of sales), rotary and mission systems (25%), space (nearly 19%), and missiles and fire control (the remainder). It’s involved in some of the biggest and most important long-term military contracts around, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Patriot missile defense system. These types of programs provide a solid foundation for long-term revenue, even though the company’s top line can wax and wane over shorter periods. The company primarily works for the U.S. government (74% of sales) and its allies (25%).</p></p><p><p>With a massive recent market value of $95 billion, Lockheed Martin has a scale and reach that’s hard for smaller competitors to match. As such, it can take on big programs, outsourcing work to smaller players. And if those smaller players become important enough, it has the resources to step in and buy them. Generally speaking, this is how the military-industrial complex works, with very large and diversified companies using bolt-on acquisitions to maintain their leadership positions over time.</p></p><p><p>Lockheed Martin is also looking fairly cheap, with a recent price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio below 16 versus its own five-year average of above 22. Its dividend recently yielded 3.2% – and that dividend has been increased annually for 19 consecutive years. (The Motley Fool has recommended Lockheed Martin.)</p></p><p><h3>Ask the Fool</h3></p><p><p><strong>Q.</strong> I’m about to start having a portion of each paycheck automatically invested in an S&amp;P 500 index fund. The stock market might be crashing soon, though – should I wait? – <em>B.N., Gainesville, Florida</em></p></p><p><p><strong>A.</strong> No. It’s true that the stock market (as measured by the S&amp;P 500) has been on a tear, posting positive returns in nine of the past 10 years, and as of this writing, it’s up double digits in 2021. But a crash might have looked likely a year or two ago, and if you’d waited then, you would have missed out on gains. It’s generally not smart to try to time the market, because no one can know what it will do in the short term (though over most long periods, it has risen).</p></p><p><p>If you’re worried about where the market is headed, you can make regular investments of equal size over time – also known as “dollar-cost averaging.” That’s what you’ll be doing if your automatic investments are within a company 401(k) account. The same sum will go from your paycheck into investments regularly, so you’ll be buying shares both when they’re lower-priced and when they’re higher-priced.</p></p><p><p><strong>Q.</strong> How can I find out what Social Security benefits to expect in retirement? – <em>F.S., Adrian, Michigan</em></p></p><p><p><strong>A.</strong> Visit the Social Security Administration website and set up a “my Social Security” account at SSA.gov/myaccount. Then you can pop in anytime to see estimates of your future benefits, based on your earnings record and on when you’ll start collecting your benefits. Delaying the start date will make your checks bigger, but you’ll receive fewer of them – so read up on Social Security strategies to see what makes the most sense for you.</p></p><p><h3>My dumbest investment</h3></p><p><p>My dumbest investment? I bought shares of Starbucks at $8, sold them when they hit $32, and bought a motorcycle. I figured the stock had quadrupled, so there was no way it would go higher, right? – <em>J.N.W., online</em></p></p><p><p><strong>The Fool responds:</strong> Well, you certainly know what happened: Starbucks shares have recently been trading around $114 per share (after several 2-for-1 stock splits over the years). Your selling may have been perfectly sensible if you really needed to generate cash for the motorcycle, or if you just didn’t see Starbucks growing much more anytime soon. But if you did still believe that Starbucks had a golden future and you didn’t really need the motorcycle, hanging onto the shares would have kept assets in your portfolio that likely would have appreciated further over time. Most motor vehicles, on the other hand, lose value over time.</p></p><p><p>Starbucks has grown from one store in 1971 to more than 33,800 stores worldwide today, and there’s ample reason to believe it can keep growing. It recently sported more than 5,300 locations in China, for example; that’s far fewer than it has in the U.S. – but China has more than four times the population of the U.S. Meanwhile, the company is having great success with its drive-through and mobile ordering systems and its Starbucks Rewards program, which boasts nearly 25 million members.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Idaho senators cosponsor bill to block settlements for separated immigrant families

<p><p>Idaho’s Republican U.S. Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo are cosponsoring a bill to prevent the federal government from paying legal settlements to immigrant families who were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under the previous administration’s policies, according to a news release.</p></p><p><p>According to reporting from Roll Call, 5,636 migrant children were separated from their parents between July 2017 and President Donald Trump’s departure from office in January. During his campaign, President Joe Biden promised he would take action for those families, who he said were wronged by the former president’s zero tolerance policy.</p></p><p><p>Although it is unclear what the amount of the settlements would be, Biden has said he supports the idea of compensating immigrant families who were separated.</p></p><p><p>“The Biden administration continues to refuse to call the situation at the border what it is – a staggering and unprecedented crisis,” Crapo said in the release. “Proposals by this administration to reward illegal behavior on the backs of hardworking Americans struggling from rising inflation, supply chain shortages and increased costs is shortsighted and unacceptable. We should not be incentivizing further illegal immigration by rewarding illegal entry.”</p></p><p><p>The legislation is also cosponsored by Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. Twenty-five other Republican senators have also signed on to the legislation, including Utah Sen. Mitt Romney.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Spokane Chiefs' fans toss thousands of teddy bears for kids

<p><p>Throwing objects onto the field, court or ice is normally forbidden at sporting events.</p></p><p><p>But it was encouraged Saturday night for the Chiefs’ annual Teddy Bear Toss as the Spokane Chiefs faced the Seattle Thunderbirds at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.</p></p><p><p>Fans of all ages hurled 5,175 teddy bears and other stuffed animals of all shapes, colors and sizes onto the ice after Chiefs’ right wing Yannick Proske netted a goal to put the Chiefs up 1-0 with 1:55 left in the first period.</p></p><p><p>Chiefs players scooped up some of the large stuffed animals and gathered near the center of the ice for a team photo, while fans erupted in applause after the majority of the bears were chucked onto the ice.</p></p><p><p>The players and volunteers then collected the stuffed animals and placed them in the beds and cabs of four large pickup trucks. It took no more than 15 minutes to collect the items.</p></p><p><p>The animals will be delivered to the Christmas Bureau, which is a collaboration between Catholic Charities, the Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review. The bears are then distributed to children who need a toy for Christmas.</p></p><p><p>The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the bear toss last year after a record 8,604 stuffed animals were hurled onto the ice in 2019.</p></p><p><p>The Teddy Bear Toss is popular among fans.</p></p><p><p>Jay Stewart, the Chiefs’ vice president of sponsorships and operations, said when the Chiefs’ schedule is released during the summer, fans ask about the Teddy Bear Toss so they can schedule other affairs around that game.</p></p><p><p>“It brings a different atmosphere to the building,” he said.</p></p><p><p>Cathi Brown and Joan Stewart, who both attended Saturday’s game, said the event brings the community together.</p></p><p><p>“I’ve been to other games before,” Joan Stewart said. “None of them are as fun as the Teddy Bear Toss. So this is definitely my favorite.”</p></p><p><p>Joan Stewart, who was accompanied by friends and family, said they purchased new teddy bears for the toss.</p></p><p><p>“I think it’s a cute idea,” she said of the cause. “It’s neat.”</p></p><p><p>Brown said she tries to take her grandchildren, who each had a bear to throw on the ice, to the Teddy Bear Toss each year.</p></p><p><p>“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “I think that every child needs something. I think that we don’t give enough for our children anymore.”</p></p><p><p>She said the experience is heartwarming and it teaches children to give to other children who are in need.</p></p><p><p>“It’s the community coming together to give back,” Brown said.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

'Strep zoo' that killed two dogs at SCRAPS not present in other dogs at shelter, agency says

<p><p>It’s believed no other dogs at Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service (SCRAPS) have contracted the bacterial infection that recently proved fatal to two mixed breeds named Riley and Bailey, said Jared Webley, Spokane County communications manager.</p></p><p><p>SCRAPS closed to the public Friday. Webley said he anticipates the agency will remain shuttered for around two weeks after the two asymptomatic dogs unexpectedly died.</p></p><p><p>WSU test results for the dogs indicated the presence of streptococcus zooepidemicus, commonly referred to as “strep zoo,” Webley said.</p></p><p><p>A SCRAPS news release Friday said the agency is following recommended shelter medicine protocols and best practices informed by veterinary infectious disease experts specialized in shelter medicine at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine.</p></p><p><p>SCRAPS has taken preventive, antibiotic treatment for every dog in its care and is in the process of contacting guardians of dogs who have recently left the shelter, according to the announcement.</p></p><p><p>The bacterial infection is common in animal shelters, and SCRAPS has taken the right steps to keep its remaining canines healthy, said Charlie Powell, spokesperson for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.</p></p><p><p>Powell said strep zoo is “extremely contagious” and “extremely deadly” in dogs.</p></p><p><p>“Anytime you concentrate animal or human populations, the risk for disease increases and the risk for severe illness increases in those animals because they’re in such close proximity of each other,” Powell said.</p></p><p><p>He said the bacteria causes “hemorrhagic pneumonia,” meaning the dogs bleed into their lungs and airways.</p></p><p><p>By the time most people realize their dog has strep zoo symptoms, like fever, cough and difficulty breathing, it’s almost too late to begin treatment, Powell said.</p></p><p><p>“Most people don’t get their animal to the veterinarian fast enough to make the treatment effective,” he said.</p></p><p><p>There’s no vaccine for the infection.</p></p><p><p>Powell said strep zoo is most commonly found in dogs and is spread by direct contact, through contact with common surfaces and through the air. He said dogs typically spread it to other dogs; it’s very rare for a dog to infect a human with the bacteria.</p></p><p><p>Powell said people should immediately bring their dog to a veterinarian if the dog starts coughing, exhibits a fever or has difficulty breathing no matter what the causative agent turns out to be. He said pet owners should not wait and see if symptoms worsen.</p></p><p><p>Webley said SCRAPS is trying to work with other shelters in the area to find out if they can take strays during the closure.</p></p><p><p>He added SCRAPS will take in dogs on an emergency basis, but the agency asks for the public’s assistance in reducing animal intake while the shelter is closed.</p></p><p><p>SCRAPS staff will remain on-site during the closure to assist the community’s needs, according to Friday’s release. </p></p><p><p>For more information or questions, contact SCRAPS at (509) 477-2532 or SCRAPS@spokanecounty.org.</p></p> ... Continue Reading