More nurses will be needed to meet terms of a new agreement banning mandatory overtime.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Forum Health is beefing up its nursing staff.
Spokeswoman Evonne Woloshyn said officials have begun to review stacks of r & eacute;sum & eacute;s and applications the health-care company received during a bitter 81-day walkout, which ended Friday when members of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association ratified a three-year contract.
"We'll begin hiring immediately," she said.
Forum was advertising $3,000 sign-on bonuses during the strike, she said, and the offer grabbed the attention of many qualified candidates. Hospital officials decided not to hire new nurses to work at Northside Medical Center, Tod Children's Hospital and Beeghly Medical Park until the contract dispute was settled.
Forum has been hiring nurses for its Austintown and Trumbull County facilities not affected by the strike.
One cause for walkout: A nursing shortage was pinpointed by both sides as a major cause for the YGDNA walkout because it forced managers to use mandatory overtime to keep medical floors staffed at safe levels.
Mandatory overtime, which sometimes forced Forum nurses to work up to 16 hours at a stretch, became the key sticking point in the dispute.
Forum will need more registered nurses on staff to meet the terms of the YGDNA's new agreement, which calls for an end to mandatory overtime within 18 months.
Woloshyn noted that Forum has hired a full-time nurse recruiter, a registered nurse herself. The company also offers its employees a $500 "finder's fee" for bringing in new employees.
Woloshyn said the hospital has "high hopes" of getting all 762 nurses back on their regular schedules at Northside, Tod and Beeghly Medical Park by next Monday.
All YGDNA members have been contacted by mail or phone and advised on when to return.
Replacement nurses Forum hired during the walkout will be phased out gradually as staff nurses arrive, she said.
Forum used between 200 and 250 replacements through FASTAFF, a subsidiary of U.S. Nursing Corp. in Denver.
Reorientation planned: Woloshyn said returning nurses will be required to participate in reorientation sessions before returning to duty.
She would not elaborate on the content, length or location of the sessions but said they will include information on changes in policy and procedures and will focus on "team building."
She acknowledged that hospital officials have some concern about negative fallout from the strike.
"Obviously, where there is conflict, there's always concern," she said, "but we have a lot of faith in our health-care professionals, and I have absolutely no doubt that patient care and patients' families will take top priority."
Many union members took temporary jobs during the strike, she said, and Forum officials likely will not know for another week or two how many have decided to accept permanent employment elsewhere.
So far, Woloshyn said, "only a handful" have notified the hospital that they won't be returning.