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St. E's to stay open if employees strike



Published: Tue, May 8, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Meanwhile, contract talks are scheduled to resume Friday between Forum Health and its striking registered nurses.

By CYNTHIA VINARSKY

VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- St. Elizabeth Health Center will remain open if 850 maintenance and service employees there go on strike Saturday, and the hospital is getting plenty of applicants willing to work as replacements.

Chris McCarty, a spokesman for St. Elizabeth's parent, Humility of Mary Health Partners, said the company's human resources department received 75 applications Monday after running classified advertisements in The Vindicator seeking per-day, full-time and part-time workers.

The ads specified that the employees are needed "due to a possible work action."

"We have to be prepared to continue to provide the community with the high level of care that we've always given," McCarty said, explaining the decision to seek replacement workers.

"It's good planning, good business, to have a contingency plan in case it's needed. There will be no interruption at all for our patients."

Here's the threat: Members of Teamsters Local 377 are threatening to set up picket lines at St. Elizabeth's at noon Saturday if negotiators don't reach a contract agreement with HMHP. The union's current agreement expires at midnight Wednesday.

Contract sessions took place Friday and Monday and were scheduled to continue today. Meetings are scheduled for 6 and 9 a.m. and 1 and 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Teamsters union hall for members to review and vote on the company's contract offer.

Local 377 represents a wide range of job classes including maintenance, building trades, housekeeping, secretarial, clerical, laundry and cafeteria workers, all employed at St. Elizabeth's.

At Forum Health: Meanwhile, talks between Forum Health and the union representing 771 striking registered nurses at three other Mahoning County medical facilities broke off after four hours Monday. A new contract session is scheduled Friday.

Nurses remain on the picket line at Northside Medical Center and Tod Children's Hospital, both in Youngstown, and at Beeghly Medical Park in Boardman. Forum's Trumbull County hospitals and its Austintown Medical Center are not affected by the walkout.

Evonne Woloshyn, a Forum spokeswoman, said no progress was reported in talks Monday, the first meeting between the two sides since registered nurses hit the picket lines a week ago today. A federal mediator scheduled the next meeting for Friday, she said.

What's higher: Forum officials have refused to divulge hospital census figures, but McCarty said HMHP's emergency rooms at St. Elizabeth's and at its new Boardman Campus Emergency Center on Market Street have both recorded increased patient numbers since the nurses' strike began.

The Boardman facility, which opened in January, has nearly doubled its case numbers in the past week, he said.

Forum bused in 270 registered nurses from outside the area and has promised to keep the facilities open throughout the strike. Woloshyn said the replacement nurses are working with about 50 practical nurses, and more than 100 supervisory, nonunion nurses.

vinarsky@vindy.com




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