On June 6, 2014 at 12:15pm, the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) – a branch of SEIU that represents residents in a myriad of programs across the country – coordinated a rally the Children’s Hospital Oakland (CHO).
Summary of CHO Rally: Well over 30 residents and supporters attended the rally throughout the duration. Media was present to capture the event. There was healthy representation from pediatric residents (PGY1 to 3) and some representation from politicians, hospital staff and random other programs like EM residents. The demands were reasonable based on their depressed wages compared to local counterparts and Bay area housing costs. The residents claim that hospital leadership is denying a meeting with residents in an effort to refuse bargaining over their requested 2 year contract. The hospital wants a reported pay freeze for several years even though they have reported 2 years of profit and recently received a $50 million donation this fiscal year. The CHO residents are also requesting $40,000 for a Patient Care Fund to cover services for any patients who cannot afford hospital resources. The residents are also requesting a one time $2,500 bonus.
OPINION: It is hard to understand why a profitable hospital would not reward its employees with increased pay given the high costs of living in the Bay Area. Programs across the country in other locations are catching on. In 2013, Mt. Sinai Hospital in NY increased resident pay to meet the standard of the area with high costs of living. All this happened thanks to the efforts of CIR at Mt Sinai.
To be clear, most residents make close to what the average family of 4 in America make (slightly over $50K). This is not a small amount. However, almost all residents have loans that factor to reduce wages anywhere from $2-7K per year thanks to monthly loan payments. Moreover, many freshly minted residents arriving the at the hospital are hit with hidden fees not accounted for in the training process. For example, the standard in other professions such as technology, law and business is that new hires receive a one-time moving bonus to cover the costs of transplanting to a new location (costs anywhere from $2-10K). In Medicine, the resident is supposed to magically absorb those costs before receiving the first pay check. On top of that, most programs have required pre-training (ACLS/PALS that costs several hundred dollars) that is not always covered as part of the standard medical curriculum or residency program. As a result, many incoming residents must pay this course registration fee and pay for the required reading.
But the residents at this rally are not even asking for any of these costs. They just want their wages to be comparable with other residents in the Bay area, an area with an increased cost of living (average 1 BR/650 sq ft was $1350 on my investigation). The hospital reports a gap of $4 million for residency programs. Using standard Wall Street protocol, the hospital leadership will cut the number of residents in programs that will increase the workload of each individual resident. In essence, they want new residents to handle the workload that more people managed and have a pay freeze for years. Meanwhile, this $50 million dollar gift looms in the background like the reported million dollar compensation for USCF Benioff CHO CEO Bertram Lubin, MD who is the resistance to the CIR contract. Does this make sense to you?