Northside cuts more than 50

YOUNGSTOWN – More than 50 full-time positions are being eliminated at Northside Medical Center in areas of nursing, respiratory, imaging and laboratory, hospital officials announced Thursday.

A hospital spokeswoman said the cuts were being driven in an attempt to increase efficiency. The local announcement came one day after the chairman, president and CEO of the Tennessee-based publicly traded hospital company that owns Northside Medical Center emphasized the company’s focus on driving operating efficiencies across its hospital network.

“Our net operating revenues improved over the prior year period on both a consolidated and same store basis in spite of ongoing volume weakness. We have begun to realize the benefits of our cost management initiatives, and we remain focused on driving operating efficiencies across our hospital network,” Community Health Systems’ CEO Wayne T. Smith said in a prepared statement released with the company’s quarterly earnings report.

The Northside cuts come amid labor tensions already existing at the facility involving more than 400 nurses represented by Ohio Nurses Association / Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association who have been working since July 2012 without a labor contract.

Being cut is the equivalent of 56.4 full-time positions, including both salaried and hourly workers, the hospital said. No date was released when the cuts would be effective.

In a prepared statement, ValleyCare Health System of Ohio Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations Trish Hrina said the cuts were being made to increase efficiency, including combining some related care units at the hospital.

She attributed the cuts to lower patient volumes and shrinking reimbursements. Hrina said national hospital volumes have been trending downward for more than a decade due largely to medical advances that make services more readily available on an outpatient basis along with growing competition from non-traditional providers.

No cuts have been announced at ValleyCare’s other area hospitals including Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren and Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital in Howland. Hrina declined to answer questions about staffing plans for those facilities, saying she had no further information.

“We want our patients, community leaders, medical staff and employees to know – with absolute certainty – that we will serve the health care needs of this community and take the steps necessary to keep this hospital open and available. We will never compromise on quality, compassion or patient safety,” Hrina said.

Eric Williams, president of the local nurses union, said about four of the positions are expected to be nurses.

About 430 nurses represented by the ONA / YGDNA have been working more than a year without a labor contract. Union members in August overwhelmingly defeated what the hospital termed its “final offer.”

In September the nurses staged a one-day strike to bring attention to the contract issue. The hospital immediately countered by locking out several of the nurses for up to three more days.

Williams said Thursday no new negotiations have been scheduled. The last bargaining session was held Sept. 11. He said he expects to call a meeting with union membership to discuss any coordinated reaction to the planned layoffs.

Hospital ownership Community Health Systems Inc. on Wednesday released its third-quarter earnings reflecting a 0.2 percent increase in net operating revenue compared to this time a year ago. Net operating revenues for the three months ended Sept. 30 totaled $3.218 billion, compared with $3.212 billion for the same period in 2012.

In its quarterly earnings report, the company indicated the three-month results reflect a “6.8 percent decrease in total admissions and a 3.9 percent decrease in total adjusted admissions compared with the same period in 2012. On a same-store basis, net operating revenues increased 0.2 percent compared with the same period in 2012.”

Over the first nine months of the year, CHS said results “reflect a 5.4 percent decrease in total admissions and a 3.1 percent decrease in total adjusted admissions compared with the same period in 2012. On a same-store basis, admissions decreased 6.2 percent while adjusted admissions decreased 3.9 percent compared with the same period in 2012. On a same-store basis, net operating revenues increased 0.2 percent compared with the same period in 2012.”

Community Health System’s Smith said Wednesday the company was pleased with its third-quarter results during what he described as “a very challenging operating environment for health care providers.”

“We believe we have the right strategies in place as we continue to position Community Health Systems to fully benefit from health care reform,” Smith said.