VA to Maintain Hospital Staff Amidst Budget Deficit Linked to EHR

According to a VA official, the agency is providing extra funding to hospitals in Spokane and Walla Walla to address budget shortfalls related to the new EHR system.

Amidst budget concerns tied to the new EHR system, a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) official said that the agency “will spare no expense” to maintain staff and services at VA hospitals in Spokane and Walla Walla, according to reporting from The Spokesman-Review.

In May, Robert Fischer, director of Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center, warned employees in an email that the Spokane hospital would need to reduce its workforce due to a projected budget deficit of over $35 million caused partially by the new EHR.

On May 24, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) wrote a letter to Denis McDonough, VA secretary, asking him to use funds Congress had set aside for the system’s deployment to prevent staff cuts in Spokane or Walla Walla.

In a June 23 letter obtained by the news outlet, Patricia Ross, VA assistant secretary for congressional and legislative affairs, told McMorris Rodgers the department would provide extra funding to address shortfalls at Spokane’s Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center and Walla Walla’s Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VA Medical Center.

“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,” Ross wrote. “VA is taking steps to ensure these facilities are appropriately funded and that services available to Veterans are not impacted.”

In the letter, Ross said the department had provided over $153 million in additional funding “to cover budget needs” at Mann-Grandstaff since the 2016 fiscal year.

Ross said that in the current fiscal year, the department would give the Spokane hospital $6.2 million to cover lost revenue, with $4.7 coming from the VA’s Northwest regional office and $1.5 million from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). She said the VA would provide $2.7 million to the Walla Walla hospital for the same reason.

“Mann-Grandstaff VAMC has not been asked to cut staff or reduce services to Veterans to mitigate any effects of the deficit,” Ross wrote. “Every VA facility must assess how to provide the best care to Veterans by providing an appropriate and sustainable plan to manage and operationalize safe and efficient staffing levels.”

In the fiscal year that began in October 2022, Mann-Grandstaff has hired 122 employees so far, 55 of whom are in “critical occupations” VA has prioritized, according to Ross. She did not note how many employees had left the Spokane hospital during that timeframe.

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