Striking workers from two competing hospitals stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a show of solidarity.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Dr. Richard Marina says he believes he can still work safely at Forum Health Northside Medical Center, but he can't work efficiently with 765 experienced hospital nurses outside on picket lines.
That's why Marina, a gastroenterologist based in Boardman, said he is taking more of his outpatient diagnostic testing cases to facilities other than Northside since members of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association went on strike May 1.
The doctor grabbed a large "On Strike" sign and joined Forum Health nurses on the picket line Friday afternoon during a rally uniting striking nurses and striking Teamsters from competing Humility of Mary Health Partners.
Marina, who is on staff at both Forum and at HMHP's St. Elizabeth Health Center, was the first Forum doctor to publicly express support for the nurses' cause.
He said their concerns about mandatory overtime, which they've called the main issue in negotiations, should be taken seriously and not ignored.
"I've made it clear to the nurses that I think the answer is somewhere in between what they want and what the hospital wants," he said, "But it does seem like the nurses are more willing to talk than the other side."
He said he's continuing to admit patients to Northside, and he believes the replacement nurses Forum Health bused in to help keep the hospital operating are qualified.
"I have not run into an unqualified nurse," he said of the replacements. "However, efficiency is part of it. I can work there safely, but not efficiently,"
Marina downplayed the significance of his visit to the picket line. "I just wanted to see some of the people I haven't seen for a while," he said, grinning as a small crowd of nurses gathered around to greet him.
Meanwhile, striking members of Teamsters Local 377 stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the nurses on their picket lines in a show of solidarity.
Hundreds of pickets lined the curb on Gypsy Lane in front of Tod Children's Hospital and Northside, waving and cheering at passing motorists, many of whom honked their vehicle horns in support.
Complaint: In a related matter, Forum Health spokeswoman Evonne Woloshyn complained that YGDNA leaders unfairly criticized hospital officials for their handling of a negotiation session Thursday.
YGDNA officials said they were disappointed that Forum negotiators didn't meet with them in person for the session, but Woloshyn said the hospital was following the suggestion of a federal mediator when it faxed a proposal to the nurses first.
"We were waiting to hear from the nurses, waiting to go back to the table," Woloshyn said. "I think it's just so unfair to say that we refused to go to the meeting when we were the ones who initiated the meeting in the first place."
YGDNA leaders rejected the hospital's faxed proposal, saying it did not address mandatory overtime and other crucial issues.
Woloshyn said Forum had hoped the proposal would be a starting point and that the nurses would either accept it or would submit a counter proposal.
No talks are scheduled between Forum and the YGDNA.
Letter to bishop: In another development, Teamster official Robert Bernat sent a letter to Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Youngstown Catholic Diocese asking for his assistance in securing a "fair contract" for the 870 HMHP employees.
Bishop Tobin issued a press release earlier this week urging parishes in Mahoning, Columbiana and Trumbull counties to pray for a quick resolution to both the HMHP and Forum Health strikes.
Talks are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Monday between the Teamsters and HMHP negotiators. The two sides had been meeting at the Teamsters' hall, but the next session will be at the Holiday Inn in Boardman.