May. 15, 2023 By Carlotta Mohamed
Nearly 300 resident physicians and fellows employed by the MediSys Health Network at Jamaica and Flushing Hospital reached a tentative contract agreement at midnight on May 15, averting what would have been the first doctors’ strike in over 30 years in New York City.
The doctors are represented by The Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR), the largest house staff union in the United States.
The union had submitted a notice for a three-day strike on May 1. A week later, they provided their employer with a second notice for a two-day ULP strike, for a total of what would have been a five-day strike.
“This agreement is one that will ensure that our class and future generations of resident doctors at MediSys are protected in the event of a public health emergency while prioritizing both the community’s health care needs and our training,” said Dr. Neha Ravi, a first-year family medicine resident at Jamaica Hospital.
Saying the system finally bargained in good faith, the physicians won virtually unheard-of patient care proposals that focused on issues such as adequate resources to limit patient loads and enforceable processes to address out-of-title work.
The deal includes 18% salary increases over three years — the wage pattern recently set by NYSNA nurses who went on strike earlier this year — along with wins on the physicians’ core demands on patient loads and out-of-title work.
“Residency training hasn’t changed very much in the last 100 years. Unfortunately, out-of-title work has been a reality that most residents expect in our hierarchical academic medicine environments, but it’s time for a new normal in health care. One where hospitals prioritize patients by prioritizing its workers,” said Dr. Uchenna Chinakwe, a first-year resident at Jamaica Hospital.
Michael Hinck, director of Public Affairs at MediSys Health Network, said that “reaching a resolution without a work stoppage taking place is a great step forward in our continued focus on quality patient care.”
“As a network that has successfully graduated thousands of residents and fellows, many of whom have gone on to hold prestigious positions across the nation, we understand and value the important role they play in our organization and the future of healthcare,” Hinck said.
Queens lawmakers congratulated the union on their win.
“I’m happy to hear that physicians at Flushing and Jamaica Hospitals have reached a tentative contract agreement to prevent what would have been a devastating strike, both for our healthcare professions and the health of our community,” Ung wrote on Twitter.
Ramos, who is chair of the Senate’s Committee on Labor, said that the residents at Flushing and Jamaica Hospital have “raised the standards for the next contract,” adding that “Elmhurst is next!” Resident doctors at the hospital are still planning to strike if an agreement isn’t reached with Mount Sinai for better pay and benefits.
The union was scheduled to have a bargaining session on Monday night, May 15, and another session is scheduled for May 22. The doctors are planning to hold a five-day strike starting on May 22, according to a union representative.
“Strikes are so powerful that even a credible threat is enough to bring an employer to the table,” Ramos wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Councilwoman Lynn Schulman said “collective teamwork was a success” with her colleagues, state electeds and many others, who put “pressure on MediSys to bargain in good faith.”
While healthcare professionals were praised during the COVID-19 pandemic by community members who banged pots and pans to show their gratitude, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said “the best way to thank our health care heroes is to pay them a fair wage and prioritize their wellness.”
“Congrats to our @cirseiu resident physicians and fellows on your new deal! To say you deserve it would be a massive understatement. This is a victory for organized labor, for patient care and for healthcare outcomes across the board,” Richards wrote on Twitter. “Because of this new deal, Flushing and Jamaica Hospitals will be stronger, fairer places to both work and to seek care.”