UA Health Network lays off 23 records staffers

2014-06-05T16:08:00Z 2014-06-06T10:32:30Z UA Health Network lays off 23 records staffersBy David Wichner Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The University of Arizona Health Network confirmed Thursday that it has laid off 23 staffers in its record-keeping department because a new electronic health-records system eliminated the need for their jobs.

No bedside workers were let go, and patient care will not be affected, UA Health Network spokeswoman Katie Riley said in a prepared statement.

The UA Health Network will provide severance packages and career-search help to the laid-off workers in the network’s Information System Services and medical records departments. The affected staffers are being encouraged to apply for other job openings across the UA network that match their skills, Riley said.

The Star reported on Sunday that the UA health system — Southern Arizona’s largest — has racked up a $28.5 million operating loss so far this fiscal year, mainly due to extra costs for transitioning to the new electronic medical records system.

Other reasons cited for the operating loss were an $11 million shortfall in expected revenue since February as patients changed coverages under the Affordable Care Act, and the loss of some federal funding for low-income and uninsured patients.

The UA Health Network is a $1.2 billion nonprofit organization that includes about 6,300 employees and two hospitals: the UA Medical Center’s university and south campuses. It also includes a physician practice plan, clinics and health plans.

The network — the seventh-largest employer in Southern Arizona, according to the Star 200 survey of the region’s major employers — was created in 2010 through a merger of University Medical Center Corp. and University Physicians Healthcare.

The electronic records system, from Wisconsin-based Epic Systems, has cost an estimated $115 million, including $32 million in unbudgeted costs for the first eight months of the fiscal year, which ends June 30, financial documents show.

The extra costs are due primarily to a delay in getting the system live and paying for additional training and support, officials said. It was supposed to be up and running by last Sept. 1 but wasn’t operational until November.

Officials say that over time, the new system is expected to improve patient safety and save money because of its added efficiency.

Contact Assistant Business Editor David Wichner at dwichner@azstarnet.com or 573-4181.

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