Salem Regional Nurses Issue Intent to Strike Notice

SALEM, Ohio – Nurses at Salem Regional Medical Center have voted to issue a 10-day strike notice to the hospital, citing severe staffing shortages and the need for more competitive wages to attract and retain the staffing needed for patient safety and quality of care.

Nurses claim over the past year, the SRMC, an independent, privately owned, nonprofit hospital, has closed inpatient units and boarded patients in the emergency department. They are demanding safe staffing standards, including nationally recognized nurse-to-patient ratios in all patient care units that are vital to achieving optimal patient outcomes and provide high quality care.

Nurses state their numbers have dwindled since 2021, with the hospital losing more than 100 registered nurses, a trend the union attributes to the need for more competitive wages to prevent turnover.

“Our patients deserve better,” said Sara Harkleroad, president of the Salem Registered Nurses Association and an oncology nurse at SRMC. “My fellow nurses do not want to strike, but real improvements are essential for ensuring the safety and well-being of both patients and staff. Fueled by overwhelming community support, we stand ready to fight for safer working conditions and better patient care for our community.”

The 120-member nurses union contract expires at 11:59 p.m. April 20, but nurses expect to vote again before striking at 7 a.m. April 22. Negotiations are ongoing.

“Salem Regional Medical Center is continuing good faith negotiations with the nurses’ bargaining unit, and our goal is to achieve a mutually agreeable contract renewal, as we have in past years,” said Debbie Pietrzak, SRMC vice president in marketing and planning. “SRMC greatly appreciates the care and dedication provided by every member of our staff.”

The nurses are represented in negotiations by the Ohio Nurses Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

“The patient care crisis in Salem is just one example of a statewide issue in Ohio’s hospitals that’s driven by greed rather than prioritizing safe patient care,” said Rick Lucas, ONA president and executive director. “It’s time for hospital executives to prioritize the well-being of both patients and staff over profit margins. Our union sisters and brothers are united in the fight for an environment of care that prioritizes the safety and well-being of every patient and health professional in every Ohio hospital.”

On the SRMC website, there are about 35 registered nurse openings, nine licensed practical nurse openings and five state-tested nursing aid openings. An advertisement for RNs on social media states the hospital is offering sign-on bonuses, competitive pay and benefits, no mandatory overtime, paid time off, paid sick time and an employer-matching retirement plan.

Founded in 1913, SRMC is the only hospital in northern Columbiana County.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.