Residents and visitors looking to see if their favorite restaurant, pool or hotel has committed health code violations will have to look somewhere other than Deschutes County’s website for the next two months.

As of the beginning of March, Deschutes County’s web inspection portal, which allows people to check health inspection data on restaurants, hotels and more in Deschutes County, is no longer updating. Eric Mone, environmental health supervisor for Deschutes County, said the delay is occurring while the county moves to a new software program, HealthSpace, that will be adopted across Oregon.

“It’s a little disappointing that our system is down,” Mone said. “It’s public information, and we want to make sure the public can access it.”

For the past six years, people have had the option of looking up how more than 1,000 restaurants, hotels and pools in Deschutes County have fared in health code evaluations on a public web portal based on the county’s website. Restaurants and food carts are inspected for the potential for transmitting foodborne illness and other violations of state health code twice a year, according to the county’s website. Hotels, motels and RV parks are inspected once every two years for sanitary facility practices.

While accessing health reports will get more challenging in the short term, Mone said, the shift will make things more efficient for Deschutes County inspectors and residents alike.

“We’re just excited,” Mone said. “With the software being more comprehensive and thorough, it makes our staff more thorough.”

Mone added that health inspections will be continuing at the normal rate of between 25 and 40 inspections per week. Residents can still call the county to request health code reports for a fee, but the ability to check and sort Deschutes County health reports won’t be available again until mid-May, according to Mone. The delay is occurring across Oregon as the state works to configure its online portal so that residents will be able to access health reports across the state, according to Jonathan Modie, lead communications officer for the Oregon Health Authority. Modie wrote in an email that inspectors would have to enter inspection data twice to continue updating the old software during the changeover. As a result, most counties are eschewing public updates until the new public portal is complete.

“County staff are currently overtaxed as it is, so this type of redundancy is not an option for them,” Modie wrote.

Modie wrote that the state selected HealthSpace, a British Columbia-based company that builds health inspection and other management software for state and local governments across North America, to replace its existing 20-year-old system. He added that five Oregon counties, including Lane County, became part of a pilot program using the software in July.

Sarah Puls, with Lane County Environmental Health, said HealthSpace came with a bit of a learning curve but has been a dramatic improvement from the older software. One of the advantages, Puls said, is that the software allows users to gather signatures electronically.

“We can go paperless a lot faster, which is one of our goals,” Puls said.

Mone added that the new software will give Deschutes County’s six inspectors the ability to post photos of what they see for restaurant owners and residents to see. Additionally, the software offers an automated series of questions for inspectors to ask, which Mone said will make the inspectors more thorough.

“We want it to be as comprehensive as possible,” Mone said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7818, shamway@bendbulletin.com

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