Congresswoman Demands VA Prevent Hospital Cuts for EHR Issues

In a letter to the VA secretary, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) emphasized that struggling VA hospitals using the EHR need more personnel and resources, not less.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) has demanded that Denis McDonough, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) secretary, commit to preventing cuts to staff or services at medical centers in Spokane and Walla Walla because of a budget deficit caused by the flawed EHR Modernization (EHRM) program.

McMorris Rodgers' request comes after Robert Fischer, director of Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center, informed supervisors last week that the hospital must reduce its authorized staffing level by over 15 percent because of an anticipated EHRM-related budget deficit.

"Under no circumstances should a VA medical center have to face a budget shortfall and a reduction in either staff or services as a result of the failed EHR," McMorris Rodgers wrote in a letter to the secretary. "VA medical centers still operating the Oracle Cerner EHR need more personnel and resources, not less."

VA recently announced it would pass all further go-lives as part of an "EHR reset" period. McMorris Rodgers noted that VA should redirect funds set aside for further go-lives to medical centers experiencing budget deficits, staff reductions, and operational struggles because of the EHR.

"During the reset period, the VA needs to guarantee that those medical centers that are unfortunately still charged with operating the EHR have the resources and personnel they need to ensure that our nation's Veterans are receiving the care they have earned," she emphasized.

"Mr. Secretary, can you make a commitment to me and every veteran in Eastern Washington that your department will use every available dollar appropriated for the EHR to prevent a reduction in staff or services at Mann-Grandstaff and Jonathan M. Wainwright VA Medical Centers?" McMorris Rodgers asked.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who controls federal spending as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has also expressed concern about cutting staff levels at Mann-Grandstaff.

Murray noted in a statement last week that "there is no question" that VA has the funds to keep the Mann-Grandstaff jobs.

"Facilities operating the new health record should absolutely not be cutting staff," Murray said.

Murray said she brought up the staffing concern when she met with Tanya Bradsher, VA chief of staff and deputy secretary.

"If VA needs more funding, they should ask for it, and they haven't," Murray said. "I will be following this closely to ensure Mann-Grandstaff has the resources it needs to support providers and get Washington state veterans the care they deserve."

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