Volume 23, Number 4 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | June 4 - 10, 2010
Residents receive raises, rent protection
The New York Downtown Hospital on 170 Williams Street is located in one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in New York City. The number of patients who use the facility has been increasing steadily over the past several years and the hospital saw a large jump after St. Vincent’s Hospital closed in April. However, resident physicians of Lower Manhattan’s only hospital have not seen a raise in over four years. Many felt they didn’t have a voice in the workplace and were dissatisfied with the hospital’s sick day policy.
This all changed last week when a bargaining organization, with the help of the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR/SEIU Healthcare), negotiated a new contract that offers raises, rent protection and bonuses for the hospital’s 64 resident doctors. They will get a two percent raise in 2011 and 2012 and additional bonuses in 2011 and 2013. The hospital agreed to rent protection for residents’ low-cost housing, which is located next to the hospital.
“All the residents felt it was a strong contract with a lot of protection for current residents and also incoming residents,” Dr. Peter Wong, a member of the negotiating committee, said.
The contract included other gains as well. Some issues, like the hospital’s policy on sick days, were difficult to negotiate.
“This was really a sticky issue. The hospital was requiring doctors to go to the New York Downtown Hospital Emergency room and get a note if they wanted to get a sick day,” Heather Appel, Campaign Communications Coordinator of CIR/SEIU Healthcare, said.
Doctors felt the system, which required them to be seen by their colleagues, violated confidentiality and was cumbersome. The new contract allows hospital residents to be seen by outside doctors. They only have to bring in a note if they are out sick for more than two days.
Residents will also be reimbursed for transportation costs and meals. Before an agreement was reached, hospital residents had no guaranteed meals. Now, Internal Medicine residents get breakfast everyday and lunch three times per week. OBGYN doctors get lunch everyday and any resident who works overnight is fed.
Residents will also be compensated for board review courses and exams, which are very expensive. If doctors feel the hospital is not holding up its end of the bargain there is a grievance procedure that will enable the Committee of Interns and Residents, a 13,000-member organization, to enforce the contract.
The New York Downtown Hospital has two residency programs - one in Internal Medicine and another in Obstetrics/Gynecology. Residents are doctors who have finished medical school but are looking to improve their education in a certain department. They can work up to 80 hours per week and are instrumental to a hospital’s success. However, due to hierarchy, they are often overlooked.
Residents at the New York Downtown Hospital used to have their own union but were unsuccessful when they tried to negotiate a new contract. In April 2009 they partnered with CIR/SEIU Healthcare, a union for resident doctors who have finished medical school and are completing training in a specialty. Founded in New York City in 1957, this organization was instrumental in the contract negotiations.
“I think that both sides were willing to come to the table and it was productive,” Appel said. “I think they did negotiate in good faith, but the residents were frustrated by the slow pace of negotiation. They stepped up the campaign last fall and winter. They started coming to community board meetings and meeting with officials and explaining that they wanted to be respected and not keep waiting. They put more pressure on the organization.”