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Trumbull Regional to lay off staff temporarily

Employees upset after being asked to reuse masks

WARREN — Trumbull Regional Medical Center has put into place a “targeted, temporary” furlough program for employees to help navigate the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to a message to employees.

Meanwhile, an official with the union that represents about 200 employees at the facility in Warren is troubled by part of the hospital’s protocol for staff use of personal protective equipment.

Most of the layoffs are for non-clinical and non-patient facing employees, according to the notice given to workers. Those furloughed will not be paid, but keep their benefits and can apply for unemployment.

The furloughs affect members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 1199, according to Chrissy Lewis, District 1199 coordinator. She said members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Ohio Council 8 would be impacted, too, however it was unclear late Friday how many employees altogether would be laid off.

They were to start Thursday, the notice states.

A message seeking comment was left Friday with AFSCME Ohio Council 8 regional director Debbie Bindas.

The layoffs come as elective surgeries have been canceled and as patients chose to put off until after the crisis subsides routine visits or non-emergency treatments, the message states. Also reimbursements on the payer side have slowed due to interruptions, the letter states.

Starting no later than Monday, all employees will be issued a mask and required to wear it at all times while on hospital property. When not in use, employees were directed to store the mask in a paper bag or kidney dish in a secure location, according to a directive.

Employees are also required to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms at the beginning of each shift.

But the policy doesn’t go far enough, according to Lewis, because employees are being asked to use the mask multiple times.

“Workers are feeling better because they will have a mask now because not everybody had one before, but it’s still a concern because they will be using a mask repeatedly and there is concern for cross-contamination,” Lewis said. “There are just so many concerns … I have been talking to scared workers all day.”

SEIU represents four bargaining units at Trumbull Regional: professional, technical, business and patient finance. Some of the job classes include laboratory, medical imaging, respiratory, pharmacy and physical therapy.

AFSCME represents registered nurses, nurses aides and housekeeping staff.

Messages seeking comment from hospital management were left Friday with Trumbull Regional’s marketing director Alexa M. Polinsky.

rselak@tribtoday.com

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