Washington VA hospital to cut staff due to lost revenue from Cerner EHR

Spokane, Wash.-based Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center said it has a projected $35 million budget deficit due largely in part to its troubled Cerner EHR system, which in turn is forcing the hospital to cut staff, The Spokesman-Review reported May 21. 

In a May 9 email to supervisors, Mann-Grandstaff Director Robert Fischer, MD, said the hospital needed to reduce staff by more than 15 percent. This would eliminate 146 full-time roles from the hospital. 

This is because the hospital has spent $38 million over budget due to the new EHR system and its reliance on private sector clinicians for key specialties. Dr. Fischer said the Cerner EHR system has also "reduced the number of veterans each clinician can see," which results in a lower allocation of funds to the hospital.

The Cerner system has also had trouble with billing insurance companies and collecting copays, according to Dr. Fischer, which in turn has caused revenue from those sources to decrease. 

Dr. Fischer said the hospital's "target" staffing level of 1,508 full-time employees would be reduced to 1,278. 

"Facilities operating the new health record should absolutely not be cutting staff," Sen. Patty Murray, who controls federal spending as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told the publication. "Mann-Grandstaff can't do that if its budget and staffing needs are not being met."

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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