STRIKING NURSES Unions vow to boycott Forum
Forum's chief competitor said it can expand services if necessary.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Forum Health officials say hospitals outside the Valley will be the only ones to benefit if labor leaders succeed in a boycott of Forum facilities to support striking registered nurses.
The community has a limited number of hospital beds, Forum said in a press release, so patients who honor the boycott may be forced to leave the area for health-care services. Officials have said the area's bed total dropped dramatically with the recent closings of two area hospitals.
But Forum's chief competitor, Humility of Mary Health Partners, says it is ready and able to expand its health-care services if the union boycott causes an increase in its patient census.
Decision to boycott: Union leaders representing thousands of union workers vowed Wednesday to support the striking Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association by asking their members to boycott Forum Health facilities. Officials from United Auto Workers locals 1112 and 1714, Teamsters Local 377, the Ohio Education Association and the AFL-CIO spoke in favor of the plan.
Representing 771 registered nurses, the YGDNA has been on strike at Northside Medical Center, Tod Children's Hospital and Beeghly Medical Center since May 1.
Hundreds of YGDNA members rallied to cheer the boycott plan and to pick up boxes of nonperishable food donated for them by the Greater Youngstown AFL-CIO. Larry Fauver, AFL-CIO president, said several unions donated $5,000 to buy 24,000 pounds of food.
Company reactions: Forum Health said in a press release that its patient levels have been "at or near normal levels" through most of the 38-day walkout. "We believe this reflects the community's confidence in Forum Health, our physicians, programs and professionals," the company wrote.
Company leaders are "extremely disappointed," however, in the YDGNA's call for a boycott.
Calling the boycott "self-serving," Forum officials said the tactic could disrupt the community's health-care delivery system and put the jobs of other Forum employees at risk.
Ready to help: Chris McCarty, a Humility of Mary spokesman, said the company is ready to re-deploy staff, if necessary, and to expand its services to meet any increase in demand caused by the boycott. HMHP operates St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown, St. Joseph Health Center in Warren and several other area health-care facilities.
"We can grow to meet whatever needs the community brings," McCarty said. "Of course, if Northside is forced to close and we had to take all its patients, it would be difficult. All we could promise is that we would do our best."
Packed waiting rooms: McCarty said HMHP facilities have been "extremely busy" throughout most of the Forum strike, but officials can't be sure the numbers are related to the walkout. "We haven't seen a dramatic change from pre-strike levels," he said.
Jean Troutman-Poole, an Ohio Nurses Association official, said the boycott is the first step in a YGDNA plan to "take its message to the community." The YGDNA is a unit of the ONA.
Troutman-Poole said the nurses plan to meet with local government officials and hope to address area church congregations to rally support. The union has said mandatory overtime is the main issue in the contract dispute.