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Leaders rally for Forum

Published: Fri, November 13, 2009 @ 12:01 a.m.

Several crucial dates in Forum Health’s bankruptcy are coming up. They include:

- Today: Bids from potential buyers of part or all of the Forum Health health-care system to determine if one or more of its facilities can be sold to pay off the creditors in full, in cash.

- Nov. 30: By this date, Forum must obtain the creditors’ agreement on whether a merger and acquisition process (sell assets) or a plan of reorganization will continue to be pursued.

- Jan. 15: Forum’s use of cash collateral expires.

Source: U.S. Bankruptcy Court records



YOUNGSTOWN — It is in the Mahoning Valley’s best interest for Forum Health to emerge from bankruptcy intact, say several of the region’s elected officials.

“We are very concerned that an outside investor might come in and break up the system. We want to send a strong message we are opposed to that,” said Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams on the eve of the deadline to submit bids to buy part or all of the Forum Health system.

Today is the deadline for the bids of potential buyers of Forum Health.

Williams and others talked about Forum and its value to the area at a press conference Thursday hosted by state Rep. Robert Hagan in front of Northside Medical Center on Gypsy Lane.

“We will need Forum Health to provide services when health-care reform becomes a reality; the community needs the 1,400 jobs Northside provides, and the city needs the $1.5 million in income-tax revenue it provides annually. We have to make sure Forum’s creditors understand the importance of the jobs and services provided by Forum Health,” said Hagan, of Youngstown, D-60th.

Hagan was joined by state Rep. Sandra Stabile Harwood of Niles, D-65th, and state Sens. Joe Schiavoni of Canfield, D-33rd, and Capri Cafaro of Liberty, D-32nd, as well as a number of sign-carrying Northside employees and Walter “Buzz” Pishkur, former Forum president and chief executive officer, who did not speak.

Williams said the city has filed a brief with the federal bankruptcy court as an interested party in the Forum case, and he would welcome an opportunity to testify as to the value of the health-care system to the city and the entire area.

The mayor said he has not met with Forum’s new CEO but has talked with Forum’s management and board of trustees to make sure they understand how important he thinks Forum is to the area.

“I believe the community is owed much in this case,” he said.

Cafaro said her office was “flooded with calls” after the placement of full-page ads in The Vindicator by the Ohio Nurses Association’s Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association at Northside urging elected officials to “speak out before it is too late.”

“We are listening and understand the value of the health care and jobs provided by Forum,” she said.

“We’re here to support the workers and choice in health care,” Schiavoni added.

He said his hope is that a number of good bids for Forum Health are received and that the investors will keep the hospital system together.

The bids will not be made public, said Forum lawyer Shawn Riley.

Williams said, however, he does not understand why the bids cannot be made public. He intends to have the city’s law director look into the matter.

Another key, fast-approaching deadline in the Forum bankruptcy case is Nov. 30, by which time the creditors and Forum are to agree on one of two paths: continue the reorganization process and keep the system operating intact, or sell its assets.

Eric Williams, president of the Northside nurses union, said Youngstown’s filing a brief with the court as an interested party is “positive and totally appropriate.”

He said the community has expectations that should an entity purchase Forum that it would continue to not only keep the system together but expand services.

Meanwhile, U.S. Reps. Timothy Ryan and Charlie Wilson and Sen. Sherrod Brown have offered their assistance to Forum Health’s new interim chief executive officer, Charles Neumann, “in moving Forum out of bankruptcy and preserving its services, facilities and jobs.”

In a letter to Neumann dated Thursday, the three outlined the urgency of pulling Forum out of bankruptcy and the devastating effects that would result in the event of the facilities’ closing.

“It is important that we work to ensure the success of Northside Medical Center, Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital and Trumbull Memorial Hospital. A strong Forum Health system is valuable to our community, and we have an obligation to keep it operational,” Ryan said.

“We are particularly concerned about how the closing of any of the Forum facilities would impact health care locally, as well as the economic effect of such a closing,” they said in their joint statement. “As the second-largest employer in the area, not only is Forum a crucial source of health care, it also has a significant impact on our local economy. An employer of Forum’s size not only affects its own employees directly but its retirees and the thousands of other workers and businesses that offer the products and services within its supply chain.”

Forum Health filed in March for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, which gives the company an opportunity to reorganize.


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