Resident doctors’ strike ends at New York’s Elmhurst Hospital

Resident doctors ended a three-day strike at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens after reaching a tentative agreement on Wednesday that they say brings them closer to earning as much as their counterparts in Manhattan.

The strike was the first by New York City hospital doctors in more than 30 years, and it gained widespread attention in part because of where it occurred. Elmhurst was one of the first hospitals in the United States to be overwhelmed by Covid-19. Descriptions by Elmhurst doctors of desperate and dying patients in March 2020 warned the rest of the country of what was to come.

The pandemic has led to a growing wave of activism among doctors. The participants in the strike, more than 150 in total, were all resident doctors, as new doctors in training in hospitals are called. Their demands included higher salaries and stronger guarantees for hazard pay in the event of a future pandemic.

Dr. Tanathun Kajornsakchai, one of the residents’ leaders, said the tentative agreement brings him and his colleagues closer to achieving parity with some of their colleagues in Manhattan.

“We got more than we would have gotten otherwise,” said Dr Kajornsakchai, adding, “It’s a big fight that this small group of residents have taken on.”

Elmhurst is one of 11 public hospitals in the city, which treats the city’s many undocumented immigrants, its working poor and indigent patients. However, resident physicians working at Elmhurst are not employed by the public hospital system, but by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in Manhattan. As a result, the city’s public hospital system, NYC Health and Hospitals, was primarily a bystander in the labor dispute.

Residents noted that their salaries were lower than what Mount Sinai pays residents of its highly ranked hospital on East 98th Street across from Central Park. The pay difference is about $7,000 for first-year residents, they said. Some of the striking doctors said they believed the pay disparity was related to the fact that many resident doctors at the city’s public hospitals are foreign nationals who are here on visas.

“The proposed agreement is fair, responsible and prioritizes patient and resident education,” Mount Sinai spokeswoman Lucia Lee said in a statement.

The union representing the striking doctors, the Committee of Interns and Residents, said the doctors would return to work on Thursday morning. The strike, which began on Monday, only involved medical residents in the departments of internal medicine, pediatrics and psychiatry.


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