TMH to lay off 34 nurses

WARREN – It’s the only job Jennifer Wallace, 62, has ever held.

After receiving word that her position as a licensed practical nurse at Trumbull Memorial Hospital is no longer needed, Wallace, of Niles, on Tuesday sat inside the Local District 1199 office of her labor union, Service Employees International Union, trying to gather her thoughts.

“It’s just a shock. I think I am still in shock because that’s my whole life,” Wallace said.

She noted that even more than the loss of income is the loss of her health insurance, particularly since her husband, who is ill, is carried on her health insurance plan.

“I think it’s pretty dirty that our insurance ends at the end of this month. It’s the first time in my life that I am not going to have health insurance,” she said.

With 45 years of service at TMH, Wallace is the most senior of the 34 LPNs whose jobs are being eliminated effective Friday.

Initially, the union had indicated that 47 positions were being cut. It was later clarified that about a dozen of those employees already had left their jobs in recent months, fearful that talk of the job cuts would come true.

Trumbull Memorial Hospital, part of ValleyCare Health System of Ohio said in a prepared statement Tuesday that it is transitioning to a nurse staffing model that uses registered nurses and nursing assistants, rather than licensed practical nurses.

“Today, we are beginning to meet with and provide information to our LPNs and the SEIU with additional information regarding the implementation of this nursing care plan in which registered nurses will be the primary provider of patient care at the bedside,” said Trish Hrina, ValleyCare’s vice president of marketing, the hospital’s chief spokeswoman.

“Trumbull Memorial Hospital is committed to providing our patients with quality health care and through effective and efficient operations,” she said.

Hrina noted that the hospital began discussions in May with the union regarding the plan.

But union officials are calling the move a direct violation of the collective bargaining agreement and said the union has filed a grievance against the hospital along with a federal unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

The unfair labor practice charge, filed Friday with the NLRB, indicates that in May the employer announced its plans to eliminate the LPN position “in violation of the parties’ agreement without bargaining with the union.”

The existing labor contract expires in January 2016.

SEIU Administrative Organizer Chrissy Heineman is requesting the union grievance to be heard in September. But that leaves no resolution before Friday’s scheduled layoffs.

“What do you do when you are in your early 60s and you have to look at the labor market for the first time ever?” said SEIU District 1199 spokesman Anthony Caldwell, who joined the LPNs at the union’s Liberty office.

“I have never even made a resume,” Wallace said.

“We value each of our employees and are working with the SEIU to help transition the 34 LPNs who will be impacted by this change,” Hrina said.

ValleyCare Health System of Ohio includes sister hospital Northside Medical Center in Youngstown, Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital in Howland and several other ancillary facilities in the Mahoning Valley. No cuts have been announced at the other facilities.

Caldwell said the SEIU represents about 250 TMH workers and about 600 in the ValleyCare system.