Nurses reject offer, EL Hospital merger deal may fail

EAST LIVERPOOL – The future of a merger between East Liverpool City Hospital and Humility of Mary Health Partners could be in jeopardy after members of the East Liverpool Nurses Association rejected the latest contract offer from the hospital.

This was the word last night from administrators of River Valley Health Partners/East Liverpool City Hospital, who said they were “disappointed” to learn that the ELNA had voted against the contract.

No details of the proposal were being released last night, but in a release hospital officials said, “The administration of East Liverpool City Hospital offered a fair and competitive contract which compared favorably to health care facilities throughout the region.”

The last publicized proposal from the hospital administration included annual wage increases over the life of the contract leading to a top wage of $34 per hour; up to 28 paid vacation and seven holidays per year; significant signing bonuses; overtime pay for hours over 40 per week; and two-and-a-half-times pay for all major holiday hours worked.

However, union officials have said the hospital wants to down-staff nurses without limitation and force nurses to work 16-hour shifts without overtime pay.

The nurses union had filed a 10-day strike notice and nurses were set to walk out at midnight May 31 when their contract expired, but the union withdrew that notice, instead filing unfair labor practice charges against the hospital. The hospital, in turn, filed its own ULP charges against the union.

Since that time, negotiations have taken place, although no details have been made public until last night’s notice that the union had rejected the hospital’s proposal.

In February, the hospital signed a letter of intent with Humility of Mary, and Ken Cochran, River Valley Health Partner/ELCH president and CEO, has said that merger hinged upon successful negotiations with the nurses union.

In last night’s press release, the hospital said, “As anticipated, the rejection of the latest offer prevents the merger with Humility of Mary Health Partners.”

Hospital officials declined to answer any additional questions about the matter last night, saying only, “East Liverpool City Hospital will now explore all options that will ensure access to care for our community.”

Attempts to reach the nurses association by telephone and email Thursday night were unsuccessful.