52 Northside hospital layoffs anger unions

By William K. Alcorn

Members are outraged that some are losing their jobs, while a consultant may be paid $9,000 per week.

YOUNGSTOWN — Forum Health’s former CEO, Walter “Buzz” Pishkur, was to talk today about his future with the financially unstable hospital system, one day after it said 52 employees would lose their jobs.

Pishkur, who recently resigned as Forum president and chief executive officer, said his 10:30 a.m. news conference would deal with Forum Health’s future and his own involvement in that future.

Forum, which filed in March for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, includes Northside Medical Center, Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren and Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital in Howland.

The union that represents many of those employees slated to lose their jobs, Service Employees International Union District 11, has scheduled a news conference for 4 p.m. today at Northside.

The employees are “outraged” that at the same time as 52 people are losing their jobs, “22 of which are direct care positions, Forum continues to push through bankruptcy court its proposal to retain Pishkur at a rate of $9,000 a week,” said Anthony A. Caldwell, SEIU spokesman.

Forum is also seeking the U.S. Bankruptcy Court’s permission to hire an interim chief executive officer for $75,000 a month through at least Dec. 31.

In a prepared statement, Forum said the layoffs are part of its reorganization process. Forum is realigning staffing to reflect current market realities while maintaining its commitment to providing high quality patient care in the Mahoning Valley, said Vince Bevacqua, spokesman.

This realignment includes staff reductions, primarily in the areas of non-patient care, management and health system positions to ensure no impact on patient care. Reductions will be obtained through a combination of attrition, job restructuring and layoffs. The affected employees were informed individually on Monday, with reductions expected to be complete by December, Bevacqua said.

“While difficult, these actions are necessary to maintain a competitive position in the marketplace in the face of difficult economic conditions impacting all hospitals and health-care providers, not only locally but across the state and country. Forum Health continues to focus all of its efforts on maintaining and improving access to quality health care for the communities we serve,” Bevacqua said.

In response to the decisions made by Forum Health management, workers at Northside, TMH and Company 50, Forum’s billing office, are having a solidarity news conference to address their concerns over the poor decisions made by hospital management, Caldwell said.

Thomas Connelly, head of the registered nurse’s union at TMH, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2026, was more harsh in his criticism of Forum’s management and board of directors.

Connelly, who said he has heard that Forum also intends to lay off some technicians and management and maintenance personnel at TMH, called it “ridiculous and a shame, and one more testimony to the board’s way of doing business.”

He said the union was not brought into discussions about the layoffs.

“The only time they want to talk to us is when they want to take money,” said Connelly.

“The board is supposed to take care of the community. We’ve had about as much as we can tolerate from the board and this situation,” he said.

Pishkur, whose proposed $9,000 a month consultant’s fee has become a lightning rod for criticism, was very vague about the purpose of his press conference today at Mr. Anthony’s in Boardman.

All he said is that it is an “announcement concerning Forum Health’s future and his own involvement.”

A request for more information was refused.

Eric Williams, president of the Ohio Nurses Association/Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, which represents between 450 and 500 registered nurses at Northside, is scheduled to speak at Pishkur’s news conference.


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