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Health care coalition pickets in front of Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center

A steady stream of pickets marched along the sidewalk Thursday evening in front of Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, drawing honks while shouting “Sunrise sucks.”

The group, made up of mostly Culinary union members, was protesting what they say are stall tactics and an unfair health care services rate hike demanded by the Hospital Corporation of America, which owns Sunrise, MountainView and Southern Hills hospitals.

About 500 people were expected to picket, but an exact number was not immediately available.

The Health Services Coalition, which negotiates health plans for 20 organizations including the Culinary Health Fund, Clark County and Las Vegas firefighters, is scheduled to meet Monday with HCA to negotiate what they hope will be a three- to four-year contract by midnight Feb. 29.

If a new agreement is not reached or an extension is not negotiated, the three hospitals and four HCA-owned surgical care clinics would be out of network for the nearly 275,000 Southern Nevadans represented by the coalition.

“We’ve been trying to get something done in good faith, and they’ve been unwilling to grant an extension. They’ve been unwilling to come down on their asking,” said picket Tommy Blitsch, principal officer of Teamsters 631.

Blitsch, who said he was at the failed negotiation meeting, was one of several pickets who have heard they could face a 6 percent to 7 percent overall rate hike on services.

Neither Culinary union spokeswoman Bethany Khan nor Rob Dyer, senior vice president of strategy and development for HCA’s Far West Division, could confirm that figure. Dyer said the number sounded incorrect.

He added that HCA already agreed to one contract extension and does not want to continue negotiations indefinitely.

“Their last negotiations with a local health care provider went on for two years,” he said.

He was apparently referring to a dispute between the coalition and Dignity Health – St. Rose Dominican Hospitals. Khan said St. Rose was “kicked out” of the coalition’s in-network providers group, but it rejoined this year.

“We’re really good negotiators. They don’t have to be in negotiations for two years,” she said of HCA.

Contact Pashtana Usufzy at pusufzy@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4563. Find her on Twitter: @pashtana_u

 

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