By William K. Alcorn
ValleyCare Northside Medical Center is eliminating 56.4 full-time equivalent positions affecting union and nonunion employees as a result of combining several care units to improve efficiency.
A full-time equivalent, or FTE, is the combination of part-time positions that equal a full-time position.
The hospital would not reveal how many employees will lose their jobs nor the effective date of the layoffs.
This is the second round of layoffs at Northside in the past three months.
Early in August, the hospital announced it would lay off 77 FTE staff members, including six or seven registered nurses. As with the Thursday announcement, no timetable for the layoffs was given.
On Thursday afternoon, Eric Williams, president of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, said preliminary indications were that 3.8 FTE registered nurses would be affected.
The YGDNA’s 485 RNs at Northside, who have been working without a contract since July 19, 2012, conducted a one-day strike Sept. 24. Upon returning to the hospital the next day, the RNs found they were locked out for varying periods of time ranging from 72 hours to a week.
After the strike, the nurses voted to reauthorize its union negotiating committee to call another strike against the hospital if deemed necessary.
The union says its major issues revolve around staffing and the lack of specific language in the hospital’s final offer giving nurses an unfettered voice in patient care as in its previous contract.
The hospital says its final offer to the nurses did not inhibit them from speaking out on patient care.
Northside nurses start at $23.94 an hour. Their top wage is $29.88, the YGDNA reported.
The Service Employees International Union District 1199, which also represents employees at Northside as well as at Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren, did not return a telephone call seeking comment on the layoffs.
The restructuring changes will support the continued delivery of high-quality care while providing primarily private patient rooms and the same care patients expect, said Trish Hrina, vice president of marketing for Northside Medical Center, an affiliate of ValleyCare Health System of Ohio.
In a letter to employees and volunteers dated Oct. 30, Kirk Ray, Northside chief executive officer, said several health care units will be restructured, including combining holding areas for Same Day Care and Post Procedure Care into one unit and combining the orthopedic and medical/surgical units.
As a result of the restructuring, 56.4 FTEs will be eliminated, primarily affecting positions in nursing, respiratory, imaging and laboratory areas, Ray said.
Since October 2010, ValleyCare has been working to preserve hospital services and invest in resources to support the high quality of care at Northside, Ray said. Unfortunately, during this same period, hospitals across the country have experienced dramatic changes with lower patient volumes and shrinking reimbursements.
Also, he said, advances in treatments have made more services available on an outpatient basis, and competition from nontraditional health care providers has grown.
“Northside is not immune to these challenges and has also experienced significant volume declines this year,” Ray said.
As the changes are implemented, Ray asked that “everyone do the right thing for our patients ... and focus on providing quality health care.”
“Treat each other with respect. Leave our differences at the door and care for the people who choose Northside for their medical needs,” he said.
“We value every one of our employees,” said Hrina.
“Our team members who are leaving have served Northside and this community with dedication and we thank them. Those of us who remain share that same commitment,” she said.
“We are committed to our community and the patients who count on us for quality care,” Hrina said.