Las Vegas nurses edge near strike, hospital company rejects new round of contract negotiations

Sunday, December 3rd 2006, 9:25 pm
By: News On 6

LAS VEGAS (AP) A union representing 800 nurses edged closer to a strike Sunday when one of the nation's largest hospital companies rejected a call for a new round of contract negotiations.

Union officials were meeting Sunday night to determine their next course of action, said Chris Coil, spokesman for the Service Employees International Union. Nurses at Valley and Desert Springs hospitals had been scheduled to go on strike Monday morning.

``A strike could cripple the delivery of medical care critical to the lives and well-being of thousands of southern Nevadans,'' said Gov.-elect Jim Gibbons, who urged another round of negotiations to try to break the impasse.

Executives at Universal Health Services, Inc., based in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, rejected the request, Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley said. The company is the parent of the two hospitals.

``We believe we're facing a crisis, and I think we're all concerned about the unwillingness on their part to agree to a cooling-off period,'' Buckley said.

An operator at Universal's headquarters said no one was available to immediately discuss the situation. A call to the company's Western region office in Las Vegas was not immediately returned.

The main sticking point is the staffing levels at the two hospitals, Coil said, adding nurses want to bring them up to levels at other area hospitals. The two sides also are split over compensation and union-access rights.

The two hospitals represent one of every three hospital beds in the Las Vegas core.

Hospital officials began preparing for the strike by installing fences around their parking lots.