The unions said the action is an attempt to get information.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Forum Health will respond through the legal system to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court by two unions seeking to halt negotiations that would outsource behavioral medicine unit jobs.
In a memo Thursday to Forum employees, Dr. Keith T. Ghezzi, interim president and chief executive officer, said that on Wednesday, Service Employees International Union District 1199 and the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, an affiliate of the Ohio Nurses Association, filed an action seeking an injunction in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Ohio.
The unions represent nurses and service employees at Northside Medical Center and other Forum facilities.
Dr. Ghezzi did not reveal details of the complaint in his memo.
However, Phil Moore, interim director of corporate communications, said the unions' petition seeks to stop Forum from proceeding with negotiations with Diamond Healthcare to take over the behavioral medicine services until grievances already filed can be arbitrated.
Divesting itself of behavioral medicine services is one of the goals of the board of trustees in its financial turnaround.
Letter of intent
The problem is, Moore said, the unions' petition is based upon stopping an agreement that does not exist.
Even though the company announced that Diamond would take over operation of behavioral medicine services Oct. 1, Moore said nothing exists between Forum and Diamond except a nonbinding letter of intent.
When the board of trustees took that action, its intent was to get out of the behavioral medicine business one way or another because of financial losses, which Moore said are $4 million so far this year.
Moore said Forum's recently announced nonbinding letter of intent to negotiate to sell all of its facilities to Community Health Systems impacts the Diamond issue.
Dr. Ghezzi in his memo noted that Diamond does provide behavioral health services at some CHS facilities.
Presidents of the unions involved in Wednesday's action were not available to comment Thursday night.
However, Linda Warino, director of the ONA's District 3, said the action was a request for information relative to the sale of the health system's behavioral medicine department to Diamond Healthcare.
In his memo, Dr. Ghezzi said the unions' action was expected. He said although Forum has reached no definitive agreement with Diamond, the board continues to pursue and will go forward with the best solution to preserve critical behavioral medicine services for this community.
Dr. Ghezzi said Forum's negotiations to sell all of its facilities to Community Health Systems "places a new dimension on our discussions with Diamond." Discussions with both parties are ongoing, he said.
It is, however, possible that these talks could delay the implementation of any changes in the behavioral health programs, Dr. Ghezzi said.
Forum management has repeatedly sought union participation in workable solutions. Thus far, SEIU District 1199, ONA and YGDNA have presented no meaningful or substantive offers, Dr. Ghezzi said.
He said the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which has two locals representing nurses and service employees at Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren, did not join in the action with SEIU and YGDNA, and have indicated their desire to continue talks to forge a positive solution.
Forum is seeking a wage freeze and benefits concessions from its union employees similar to those imposed on its nonunion employees earlier in the year. The concessions are changes in the areas of paid time off, health care co-pays and pensions.
The SEIU and YGDNA have said previously that Forum has not provided enough information on the issues for them to make any decisions.