4/30/08

SEIU 1199 takes dues hit in Ohio

Forum Health officials confirmed Tuesday that due to fewer patients, a medical surgical unit will close at 3 p.m. today at Northside Medical Center. Lowell Johnson, president and CEO of Western Reserve Care Corp. and Forum Health System, explained that fluctuations in intake sometimes cause seasonal reductions. "Every hospital in the United States has a busier season from October to mid-March," said Johnson. "And every hospital has lighter seasons." Johnson noted that the cuts applied to members of the Service Employees International Union District 1199 and the Ohio Nurses Association.

A Forum spokeswoman said there was a regularly scheduled trustee meeting Tuesday, but she was not certain whether the closing was part of the agenda.

The closing will affect 15 full-time equivalents within the SEIU District 1199 bargaining unit, according to Erin Kramer, coordinator with the hospital division of the union, which represents professional workers as well as technical and service employees at the hospital.

‘‘We’re obviously disappointed with the decision to reduce capacity at Northside,’’ said Kramer.

‘‘We don’t believe management has the right to implement changes unilaterally.’’

Kramer added that non-bargaining unit reductions also could be made, making it difficult to estimate the total number of employees affected.

Eric Williams, president of the Ohio Nurses Association / Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, declined to comment.

Johnson stressed the seasonal nature of the decision.

‘‘It certainly is our hope that as fall comes we will absolutely need to reopen that unit,’’ said Johnson. ‘‘I would open it tomorrow if we had more patients.’’

Johnson said the hospital had held a series of meetings with the affiliated unions and that such meetings would continue.

Forum Health spokesperson Trish Hrina maintained the closing of the unit would not disrupt daily operations.

‘‘Medical patients will go to a medical floor and surgical patients will go to a surgical floor,’’ said Hrina.

The hospital added that the unit closing would not affect its ability to perform surgeries, nor would the closing affect previously scheduled procedures.

‘‘The goal is that this isn’t going to affect daily business operations,’’ said Hrina. ‘‘Just that particular unit is being closed.’’

Kramer expressed the union’s frustration at the timing of the cuts.

‘‘We’re obviously headed into a set of contract negotiations, and one could be cynical about this,’’ said Kramer.

‘‘Our bigger concern is that the hospital is quick to cut, but has no clear plan to grow health care in the community.’’

Kramer added that, in her experience, she had never seen a unit close temporarily, only to reopen later.

‘‘Management has indicated that (the unit could reopen), and we would like to believe that that is true,’’ said Kramer.

(tribunechronicle.com)

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