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Sunrise Hospital to cut 144 jobs

Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center will eliminate 144 positions as the hospital deals with losses in revenue from a 26 percent increase in uncompensated care over the past year, a spokesman said Thursday.

Spokesman Dan Davidson said fewer people have the resources to pay their medical bills, while fewer people are becoming patients at the hospital on South Maryland Parkway at East Vegas Valley Drive.

“Thirty percent of people are uninsured in Las Vegas, which is a very significant number,” Davidson said. “We also saw a contraction in patient activity. A 2.6 percent decrease in 2011 compared with the year before in patient activity.”

He declined to discuss the hospital’s finances.

“Sunrise has always provided uncompensated care, but this increase is having a very strong impact on the hospital,” Davidson said. “There used to be an old adage that health care was recession proof. That’s certainly not true with this recession.”

Sunrise informed employees of the cuts on Tuesday. Hospital administrators plan to eliminate open positions and reduce contract staff. They have also offered voluntary severance packages.

Davidson said it’s too early to know whether enough employees will take the buyout to avoid layoffs – the deadline to volunteer is Wednesday - but he predicted fewer than 100 of the 2,795 employees of Sunrise Hospital and Sunrise Children’s Hospital will face job loss.

The Sunrise facilities are part of chain of four hospitals in Southern Nevada known as Sunrise Health Hospitals. The chain, which is owned by HCA and parent company HCA Holdings Inc., includes Mountain View and Southern Hills hospitals. No layoffs are planned at the latter two hospitals, Davidson said.

Sunrise may not be alone in feeling the financial stress.

“I doubt it’s the only local hospital dealing with an increase in costs associated with uncompensated care,” said Dr. Jerry Reeves, vice president of medical affairs with Health Insight of Nevada in Las Vegas.

Reeves said hospitals in lower-income areas traditionally have higher costs from uncompensated care, as uninsured residents put off seeking treatment until they’re forced to go to an emergency room.

He said hospitals are also feeling the impact from fewer health care dollars from state and federal government, leaving them to “eat the costs,” or try to raise the rates they charge commercial insurance. Reeves said he also expects to see increased uncompensated care at hospitals that serve the more affluent areas of Southern Nevada.

HCA of Nashville, Tenn., reported first quarter net income of $540 million on revenues of $8.4 billion.

Samuel Hazen, president of operations at HCA, told analysts in a May 3 conference call that growth was off 2 percent in the first quarter in Las Vegas. The health care company did not address other aspects of its Southern Nevada business in its earnings report or conference call.

“We need to reduce these positions so Sunrise can remain financially competitive, and reinvest in our people, facilities and programs,” Davidson said.

Davidson said patient care will not be hurt by the staff reduction. He said the goal of any staff layoffs was to “limit the impact at the bedside.”

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@
reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.

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