YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – As nurses at Northside Medical Center wait to hear the decision of an arbitrator, they are taking their anger at being forced to put in overtime to the public.
About a dozen members of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association at Northside stood outside the hospital Wednesday morning carrying signs and protesting what they say is an increased use of mandatory overtime, nearly 1,500 hours so far this year, at a time when staffing levels are down by more than 25 percent.
The nurses have been working under a contract that expired in February and has been extended twice, saying the agreement prohibits supervisors from forcing nurses to work extra hours. They claim it is a matter of protecting the patients and themselves.
“It is such a dangerous practice that leads to fatigue, mental exhaustion, which leads to errors and compromises patient safety. So the nurses at Northside are taking the steps that they can to end this practice once and for all at Northside,” Molly Ackley of the Ohio Nurses Association said.
“You get a schedule and you have how many nurses, number of nurses per shift, and then, they already know as we call them, ‘holes’ that there is a lack of nurses. They know ahead of time, even days ahead of time that they are short for a shift,” nurse Lorie Hornberger said.
A spokesperson for Community Health System, which owns Northside, said administrators use mandatory overtime only in what they call extraordinary situations, adding those nurses forced to put in extra hours are paid triple time. The spokesperson also said that out of 217,000 hours worked this year. less than 1,500 were mandated.
Union leaders argue the extra pay is meant to be a deterrent for the hospital and that hiring more nurses would solve the problem.
“It still does not mean that it is the right thing to do. What they need to do is hire more nurses, bottom line,” Ackley said.
While hospital officials said staffing is based on patient volume, union members argue their numbers have fallen from 410 nurses just a year ago to 290 now.
The nurses have another negotiation session set for Friday on a new contract, but they admit it could be months before the overtime arbitration is decided. For now, they are asking the public to pressure administrators into making changes.