Nurses union unhappy with CEO

By William k. Alcorn

The TMH nurses union is no longer willing to discuss concessions.

WARREN — The executive board of the nurses union at Trumbull Memorial Hospital has taken a vote of “no confidence” regarding the abilities of Forum Health’s chief executive officer and board of trustees to guide the health system and reverse its financial problems.

In a statement Thursday, Thomas Connelly, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2026, said the “time for insisting this financial burden to be shouldered by Forum employees, both union and nonunion, should come to an end.”

He said the union will terminate plans regarding its cooperation in such matters immediately. The bargaining unit has made it plain there will be no discussion of concessions.

“We don’t see a direction, and I haven’t been communicated with by [Walter Pishkur, Forum president and CEO]. We’re kind of dumbfounded as to where we are going,” Connelly said.

Local 2026 represents 450 registered nurses at Trumbull Memorial Hospital. Forum Health has about 4,000 employees at facilities in Mahoning and Trumbull counties. Its major hospitals are Northside Medical Center in Youngstown, TMH in Warren, and Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital in Howland.

Pishkur disagreed with Connelly’s assessment of his (Pishkur’s) performance during his first four months on the job.

“I, with the support and cooperation of our board and management team, have succeeded in negotiating favorable terms with our lenders, hiring in-resident chief operating officers for our two major hospitals and identifying the expense reductions and operational changes that are necessary to create a financially strong health system,” he said.

Five years of financial difficulties cannot be erased in four months, but an excellent start has been made, especially considering the difficulties posed by the economy at large, Pishkur said.

Further, Pishkur said he is disappointed that Connelly chose to “stage a public event which is negative and regrettable. He and the rest of Forum’s employees have a standing invitation to partner with me in the effort to keep this high-quality organization viable,” Pishkur said.

Connelly doesn’t see it that way.

He said: “Pishkur’s we-know-best and arrogant attitude is completely unsupported by his abilities and experience. His attitude has alienated the Local 2026 board and leadership from the nursing staff and much of the medical staff.”

The union leader said he believes his bargaining unit would still be willing to do the right thing if it were communicated with.

“But for Forum to leave the employees out of the picture, and continue to ask for sacrifices, I don’t think is reasonable,” he said.

In 2006, Connelly said Local 2026 voluntarily granted concessions to aid the hospital system, which included a hospitalization co-pay, wage freeze, return of significant paid unproductive time and suspension of the defined benefit pension. The concessions occurred as consultants from various parts of the country “waltzed out of this system and the Valley with well over $26 million of our money,” he said.

“We have always felt willing to assist the system in its financial responsibilities, and it was our hope that we were forging a true collaborative partnership with administration to relieve this ailing system. This has not been the case,” Connelly said.

“I don’t question Mr. Pishkur’s business prowess, but under his leadership, Forum Health has failed to halt Northside Medical Center’s fiscal losses, has made no progress with lenders, and has successfully depleted our reserves.”

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