WARREN - Plans by ValleyCare Health System of Ohio to transition from use of licensed practical nurses to registered nurses at Trumbull Memorial Hospital is expected to be met with a fight by the hospital's organized labor.
The changes could affect 47 licensed practical nurses that work at the Warren hospital. For now, labor leaders say the LPNs' role should remain intact according to the existing three-year labor contract which expires Jan. 31, 2016.
Anthony Caldwell, spokesman for the Service Employees International Union District 1199, said Monday there has been no open dialogue about the hospital's proposed change.
ValleyCare Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations Trish Hrina on Monday released a prepared statement confirming the hospital does plan to transition to a "nurse staffing model that uses registered nurses and nursing assistants."
She said the model would use RNs to provide most of the patient care.
Caldwell said he is leery of such plans, saying he suspects the hospital would attempt to simply eliminate the LPN positions and transfer the work to RNs without adding necessary manpower or additional compensation to the RNs.
"We believe the LPNs are a vital part of the health care team there," Caldwell said.
He said the union has informed the hospital that such a change would violate the existing labor contract and would be open for discussion only during future labor negotiations. Those talks likely would not begin until spring or summer of 2015.
"They (hospital officials) have not responded to us formally," Caldwell said.
Caldwell said he does not believe the hospital has outlined a formal timeline for the changes.
In an email correspondence, Hrina did not address the question on time frame for the changes .
She said the hospital has offered to work with the union to help transition LPNs who will be affected by this change, but she stopped short of addressing whether the issue is contractual.
Both sides maintain they are focused on providing good patient care.
"(TMH) is a kind of place you really want to go when you have need," Caldwell said. "We are worried if you take away LPNs, what kind of impact will this have on care at TMH?"
Hrina also cited patient care as a concern of hospital management.
"Trumbull Memorial Hospital is committed to providing patients with the highest quality, personalized care," she said.