East Liverpool Nurses Seek Support from City Council

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – “We’re crying out for help” registered nurse Melissa Cain told members of City Council’s Licensing and Economic Development Committee as she asked for their help in encouraging East Liverpool City Hospital officials to return to the bargaining table with the Ohio Nurses Association.

In an impassioned plea, Cain told the committee that in addition to working 12-hour shifts at the hospital, she serves as the nurse for East Liverpool Christian School, is pursuing her nurse practitioners degree and is a single mother. 

“In 15 years, I have never worked so hard in health care and been so overwhelmed and saddened and disappointed,” she said at the meeting Tuesday. 

Cain said it’s not just the ongoing COVID pandemic, but the efforts to secure a new contract that has her and other nurses overwhelmed. For years, she said, East Liverpool City Hospital has been under-staffed, but made up for it somewhat by paying well.

“Now, it’s just the opposite. We have a ton of vacancies. … We are no longer offering competitive wages. We’re by far the lowest,” she said, adding that there’s been “a mass exodus of nurses.”

The plight of nurses as depicted on television during the pandemic is not made up, Cain said.

Melissa Cain

“We are scurrying. We’re tired. We are yelling for help,” she said. “We could be at one patient’s bedside for 12 hours. We’re crying out for help.”

The nurses walked out for a limited three-day strike in November. She said the union has offered to continue negotiating, but the hospital has refused, despite the CEO having indicated he wanted to return to the table. 

Hospital spokesman Rick Perez said last week the hospital had given its last, best and final offer to the nurses and would begin implementing the wages outlined in that offer. 

“The proposal for wage increases still won’t attract nurses. It’s not comparable to other fair market wages in the area,” Cain countered Tuesday.

She declined to comment on the union’s offers since she is not a member of the bargaining unit. Perez did not return a phone call and email left for him after the meeting.

“This has been hanging over our heads since June,” Cain said, noting the union agreed to delay bargaining at that time due to the pandemic. “We agreed that was not the time. But, it’s still very much unresolved.”

She asked for the committee’s support and consideration in contacting hospital officials on the union’s behalf to “impress on them the importance of coming to an agreement.”

Committee member Craig Stowers suggested the committee might “write up something” that could be signed by council and other city officials saying how vital the hospital is to the community. East Liverpool City Council had offered a voice vote at its last meeting in support of the union, committee chairman John Mercer pointed out, saying he will draft a letter of support for council to consider at the next meeting. 

Cain said no bargaining sessions are scheduled but the union will meet for an informational meeting Friday to discuss the hospital’s final proposal.

Pictured: Two members of the nurses union on the picket line outside of East Liverpool City Hospital on Nov. 21.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.