Published: Thursday, August 3, 2006
Forum, unions to discuss changes
A union leader hopes the meeting will shed some light on employee issues.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
WARREN Union leaders who represent nurses and service workers at Forum Health Trumbull Memorial Hospital have been invited to meet with the company Friday to discuss announced changes in the behavioral medicine programs.
Last week, Dr. Keith Ghezzi, Forum Health's interim president and chief executive officer, said in the Forum Flash newsletter that the health system would contract with Diamond Healthcare to manage and operate all behavioral medicine programs, effective Oct. 1.
He said the partnership with Diamond would ensure that all psychiatric programs now offered by Forum would remain in the community.
Forum's Center for Behavioral Medicine provides mental health and chemical dependency services for children, adolescents, adults and families.
Dr. Ghezzi, however, did not address what would happen to the Forum employees who now provide those services at Forum Health Northside Medical Center and TMH.
The announcement produced letters from American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2026 and 2804 demanding negotiations on the employee issue. The unions say they have successor clauses in their contracts.
Local 2026 represents registered nurses at TMH, and Local 2804 represents the hospital's service employees.
Widening the gap
But in this week's Forum Flash, Dr. Ghezzi's comments further infuriated union leaders.
"I'm about as put out as I can get," said Tom Connelly, president of Local 2026.
What particularly got Connelly's attention was this comment by Dr. Ghezzi: "For the record, we did not receive any proposals or suggestions from the unions that demonstrated a willingness to help us restructure the behavioral health programs.
"Going forward, I hope that we can count on the constructive participation of the unions to examine the work rules and cost that hamstring Forum's ability to provide some critical services and survive in this competitive market place," Dr. Ghezzi wrote.
The implications that the unions had some ability to alter the behavioral medicine decision, and that the unions are the problem, are false, Connelly said.
"Our ideas and suggestions were never sought," he said.
Connelly said he still has not seen the letter of intent, which Forum Health's Board of Trustees approved to hire Diamond, and has received no specifics as to the fate of the affected employees.
"I'm hoping that Friday's meeting will shed some light" on those subjects, Connelly said.
"TMH is a community-based and community-run hospital, and they [Forum managers] seem willing to turn that over to outside firms. Where is it to stop? Which service is next to be farmed out? It's a disservice to the community," Connelly added.