Nurses, allies picket Northside

By William K. Alcorn


“Safe Patient Care” and “No Nurse Rationing” were among the messages on posters carried by Northside Medical Center nurses and their supporters during informational picketing Saturday in front of the hospital on Gypsy Lane.

Some 200 participated, including members of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association (YGDNA) and representatives of several other unions, including the AFL-CIO, United Auto Workers, Teamsters, Ironworkers and firefighters and police, said Eric Williams, YGDNA president.

The YGDNA represents about 420 registered nurses at ValleyCare Northside Medical Center whose contract expired July 19, 2012.

On Aug. 2, the membership authorized its bargaining committee to call a strike. The next negotiating session is scheduled for Wednesday.

Though the union’s bargaining committee has the authority to signal a strike, Williams says that’s not what it wants to do.

At the rally, Williams said he continued to push YGDNA’s concern with patient safety and care, nurse rationing, and absence of a wage scale in the hospital’s last contract proposal.

“We’re not saying Northside is not a good place at the moment. We’re proud of all the awards the hospital has received; we just don’t want the level of care to deteriorate,” Williams said.

The union is concerned that sending nurses home from work could leave the hospital short-staffed at times; and believes the hospital’s contract proposal does not provide for nurses having a voice in patient care.

However, ValleyCare Health System of Ohio, in a statement Thursday said employees at Northside can speak up at any time on issues impacting patient safety and quality of care, ... and nothing in the hospital’s final offer to the registered nurses would change that.

Another major concern is elimination of a wage scale from the hospital’s final offer, which means the employer could pay anything it wants to, Williams said.

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