VA pledges to provide more funding to prevent staff cuts due to Cerner EHR budget deficit

The Department of Veterans Affairs said it "will spare no expense" to prevent staff cuts at Spokane, Wash.-based Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center and Walla Walla, Wash.-based Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VA Medical Center, despite the budget deficit it is facing due in large part to its Cerner EHR system, The Spokesman-Review reported June 26. 

In a June 23 letter the publication obtained, the VA's assistant secretary for congressional and legislative affairs said it will provide additional funding to address "shortfalls" at both medical centers. 

"I assure you that any budget issues at the Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VAMC will not result in staff or service reductions," the letter read. "VA is taking steps to ensure these facilities are appropriately funded and that services available to veterans are not impacted."

This comes after Mann-Grandstaff Director Robert Fischer, MD, said in a May 9 email to supervisors that the hospital needed to reduce staffing levels by more than 15 percent, resulting in eliminating 146 full-time roles mostly by not filling vacant positions, due to the budget deficit. 

The hospital has spent $38 million over budget, and a lot of that is being attributed to its new Cerner EHR system and its reliance on private-sector clinicians for key specialties. 

Dr. Fischer said the Cerner EHR system has "reduced the number of veterans each clinician can see," which results in a lower allocation of funds to the hospital.

Currently, Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center is one of five VA medical centers to go live with the Cerner EHR system. Rollouts at additional facilities are on hold until Mann-Grandstaff and the other facilities currently using the EHR can get their systems performing at a highly functional level.

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