November 30, 2020
Prem Reddy, MD, FACC, FCCP
President and CEO Prime Healthcare Services
3480 East Guasti Road
Ontario, CA 91761
Dear Dr. Reddy:
In 2016, when Prime Healthcare acquired East Liverpool City Hospital (ELCH) in Ohio, you told the media that it would be “our privilege to collaborate with the physicians, nurses and employees at these facilities to ensure the best care for the patients they serve.” Sadly, negotiations for a new contract for AFT-represented nurses at ELCH could not be further from productive collaboration, or from the community-focused, practitioner empowering approach Prime claims to pride itself on. Our union remains ready and willing to return to the bargaining table for as long as it takes to reach a fair agreement.
For months, nurses represented by the Ohio Nurses Association/AFT have been attempting to bargain in good faith with the hospital to address serious, long-standing issues that relate to the quality of care at ELCH. These issues include:
• Nurse staffing levels: The ONA estimates the hospital is currently running with a vacancy of 20 nursing positions (with a current staff of 128 nurses).
• Stressful working conditions for nurses: Mandatory overtime and “call-ins” are exhausting and demoralizing nurses.
• Pay that, alongside difficult working conditions, is impacting the hospital’s ability to recruit and retain highly skilled, experienced nurses. ONA’s research finds ELCH ranks 103rd out of 121 comparable hospitals in the state, in terms of pay.
The ONA bargaining team has put forth well-researched, patient-centered proposals to address these problems, and has twice agreed to extend the nurses’ contract. Even after a marathon 16-hour bargaining session on Nov. 17 ended with little progress, the ONA quickly presented the hospital with a new proposed bargaining schedule, in hopes of continuing to work toward an agreement. By contrast, hospital management has repeatedly delayed bargaining. The union has been forced to file numerous unfair labor practice (ULP) claims over the hospital’s conduct during this process.
In desperation, nurses voted by 97 percent to go out on a three-day strike over these ULPs. The union did much to avoid a strike—offering on Nov. 17 to pull the strike notice if management would agree to a short extension to reach an agreement. The hospital not only refused the extension, but also did not meet with nurses between that time and the start of the strike. During the strike, ELCH hired replacement nurses—an insult to Ohio’s long history of trade unionism.
Our nurses’ struggle for professional respect has won overwhelming support from the East Liverpool community. The hundreds of comments in support of the nurses the hospital received on its Facebook page are just one indication of which side this community is on. Nurses are showing dedication and courage of the highest level during this pandemic and deserve a fair contract.
The AFT leadership and our 1.7 million members stand with our ONA nurses in this fight. I request that you direct ELCH management to return to the bargaining table immediately and bargain in good faith to reach a strong, fair contract that respects nurse professionalism, prioritizes high-quality patient care, and advances the recruitment and retention of skilled nurses. Please honor Prime’s stated commitment to collaborating with the nurses whose work is at the heart of excellent healthcare.
Randi Weingarten President