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Youngstown’s Forum Health reorganizes under bankruptcy protection

Youngstown hospital system Forum Health is reorganizing under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code “in a strategic move to preserve choice and continuity of quality health care in the Mahoning Valley.” The system cited a heavy debt load, population declines in its communities, the nation’s economic recession and restrictive labor agreements as reasons for the bankruptcy filing.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Youngstown hospital system Forum Health is reorganizing under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code “in a strategic move to preserve choice and continuity of quality health care in the Mahoning Valley,” the system said in a written statement.

Forum Health, which has struggled to cut costs, repay debt, sell assets and keep managers in the last several years, filed for bankruptcy protection March 16 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Youngstown. Day-to-day operations at its four medical centers “are expected to continue as usual during the reorganization process,” the system said in the statement (pdf) at its Web site.

Forum Health operates Northside Medical Center in Youngstown, Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren, Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital in Howland and Austintown Medical Park. Judge Kay Woods will preside over the reorganization, Forum Health said.

In its bankruptcy filing, the system listed assets in the range of $100 million to $500 milion, with a like range of liabilities, according to Reuters news service. The system cited a heavy debt load, population declines in its communities, the nation’s economic recession and restrictive labor agreements as reasons for the bankruptcy filing, Reuters said.

The system’s strategic plan, which already is in place, focuses on increasing admissions, improving patient satisfaction and doctor relations, re-establishing a presence in Boardman to serve southern Mahoning County, and cutting costs.

“Our goal is simple — create a financially strong health care system to serve the diverse needs of the people of the Mahoning Valley and beyond,”  Walter “Buzz” Pishkur, who was appointed Forum Health’s president and chief executive in October, said in the statement.

“This action gives us the opportunity to continue to execute on the revitalization strategy that will impact the future of a system that provides thousands of jobs, generates millions of dollars in local tax revenues and delivers outstanding clinical outcomes to the community,” Pishkur said.

Forum Health employs nearly 4,000 people and considers itself the second-largest employer in the Mahoning Valley. The system’s annual payroll is $170 million, and it pays $50 million in taxes to local, state and federal governments each year, it said in the statement.

After meeting with Forum Health leaders on March 16, union leaders said their members would continue to provide quality care at the system’s facilities, according to the Warren Tribune Chronicle.

Forum Health was created in 1997 when Northside Medical Center and the former Tod Children’s Hospital merged with Trumbull Memorial Hospital. The system dates back to the 1881 formation of the Youngstown Hospital Association. The association opened Youngstown’s first hospital in 1883 and Northside Medical Center in 1929.

Feature photo of Forum Health’s Northside Medical Center courtesy of Ohio Hospital Association.

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