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Nearly 2,300 New York City Health + Hospitals residents are seeking a contract that will provide them with salaries comparable to those earned by physicians at safety net hospitals in the private-sector.
The public hospital system’s residents, represented by SEIU's Committee of Interns and Residents, have gone without raises since March 2020; their contract expired in December 2021. Their salaries currently start at $66,247, according to the union.
The city hospital system has proposed a $76,984 salary for first-year H+H physicians starting next year. But even with that increase, they’d still earn an average of $5,586 less than residents at private safety-net hospitals such as Maimonides Medical Center, the union said. The gap would be even larger for more experienced residents, growing to $9,228 for fifth-year residents.
“Without a competitive salary, it’s going to be harder and harder to recruit residents who believe in the mission of Bellevue to turn no patient away,” said Nicholas Frazzette, a pathology resident at the Manhattan hospital.
CIR/SEIU held a speak-out outside of Bellevue Hospital Tuesday, the first of eight planned, to demand that the city settle a contract that includes fair raises. Additional events were set to take place at Jacobi Hospital and Woodhull Hospital later this week.
Frazzette, who is in his first year after medical school and has been training at Bellevue for five years, said that the residents’ 12 to 14-hour shifts are easily extended by two or more hours commuting because they can’t afford to live near where they work.
“The joke is that we reside in the hospitals,” he told The Chief. “Folks stretch themselves thin. It takes its toll, and it's exhausting.”
Still, Patrick Lundy, a psychiatry resident at Bellevue, said that 14-hour shifts and financial stress “don’t stop me from staying late to ensure my patients are receiving the best treatment.”
“CIR’s demand of the city is very simple: we want equal pay for equal work. We want to be able to pour from a full cup,” he said at Tuesday’s event.
The residents are also seeking increased investment into a fund used for hospital equipment and research.
The workers highlighted that H+H disproportionately serves uninsured and low-income patients, including homeless New Yorkers and asylum-seekers. “If Mayor Adams does not agree to a fair contract with CIR residents soon, he will be turning his back not only on who he calls New York’s health-care heroes, but on the very communities and New Yorkers he was elected to serve,” Frazzette said.
Last year, the New York State Nurses Association settled a contract with NYC H+H that closed a nearly $20,000 pay gap between public- and private-sector nurses. The agreement followed an arbitrator’s decision awarding the public-sector nurses pay parity.
Mercedes Cruz-Gonzalez, NYSNA’s labor bargaining unit president at Bellevue, took note of the work performed by H+H residents during the pandemic.
“Unfortunately, H+H has a short-term memory. During the Covid pandemic, we were called heroes. They forget that the hard work is always at the front lines,” she said, adding that some healthcare workers had gotten PTSD or had left the profession. “The corporation compensated the registered nurses. Now it’s time to pay the doctors.”
NYC H+H spokesperson Christopher Miller said in a statement that “NYC Health + Hospitals is grateful for our residents who play a critical role in patient care every day.”
“As negotiations are ongoing, we look forward to continued discussions with the Committee on Interns and Residents. Our goal is to strengthen our partnership and reach an agreement that is fair to CIR, NYC Health + Hospitals, and our city’s taxpayers,” he added.
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