Rumors of deal resurface at Forum



A deal for Tod Children's could be voted on today, a union leader said workers have heard.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Is there a deal in the works on the future of Forum Health's Tod Children's Hospital?
Discussions about a deal were conducted recently by Forum Health, St. Elizabeth Health Center and Akron Children's Hospital. But, as of Monday, there was nothing firm to announce, said Karen Gaines, head of media relations at Akron Children's.
Rumors surfaced earlier this month about the possible sale or merger of Tod Children's with St. Elizabeth's and Akron Children's.
At the time, spokeswomen for Forum and Humility of Mary Health Partners said there was no truth to a rumor that HMHP and Akron Children's Hospital, which have a partnership, have bought or will buy Tod Children's Hospital.
However, conversations did take place on how HMHP and Forum could work together to provide pediatric hospital services to benefit the community, an HMHP spokeswoman said.
Meetings scheduled
The rumor resurfaced Monday when notices were posted announcing separate Tod Children's and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit employee meetings at 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. Wednesday, respectively.
Linda Warino, Ohio Nurse Association District 3 director, said the union is "hearing" that the Forum Health Board of Trustees will vote on a deal at its meeting today and announce it to employees Wednesday. However, Warino said she has no idea what the deal might entail.
Eric Williams, president of Youngstown General Duty Nurse Association at Northside Medical Center and Tod Children's, said the notices say Lowell Johnson, interim chief operating officer at Northside, will be present at the meetings.
"That leads me to believe something important is up," Williams said.
Forum Health has money problems and is about a year into a financial turnaround effort.
During that time, Forum has tried to sell the entire operation, including Northside, Tod Children's, Beeghly Medical Center in Boardman, Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren, and Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital in Howland, as well as satellite operations in Mahoning and Trumbull Counties.
The Forum Health board signed a letter of intent to sell the hospital system to Community Health Systems, a for-profit health-care firm. However, some 40 days later, CHS, without explanation, terminated its letter of intent.
Bond rating downgraded
Earlier this month, Standard & amp; Poor's downgraded Forum Health's bond rating from BBB-, the lowest investment category, to BB, which is "no longer reflective of an investment-grade rating level. The BB rating is speculative and essentially junk-bond status," an S & amp;P spokesman said.
The lower rating makes it more expensive for Forum to borrow money, the S & amp;P spokesman said. S & amp;P is a Wall Street investment rating firm.

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