After 18 months of negotiations, pediatric resident physicians and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland reached an agreement last week on a new contract that raises the residents’ educational allowance for such things as books, computers and supplies, but doesn’t include a salary increase.
Salaries for resident doctors will remain unchanged at just under $52,000 for the first year, despite the residents original request of a $2,250 one-time bonus amount to help cover the rising cost of living in the East Bay. The contract offers a $500 bonus to all residents for ratifying the contract according to a press release.
“The salary unfortunately didn’t change, but the hospital and the union came up with creative ways to give us some supplemental income,” said Christiana Tai, a member of the resident’s union.
Work hours also remain unchanged under the new contract, at a maximum of 80 hours a week and 20 hours per shift, as stated in the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.
The Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR), which represents more than 13,000 resident physicians in public and private teaching hospitals across the U.S., approved the contract. The union’s first proposals were made in April 2013, and it took about 16 bargaining sessions, federal mediation and even a petition on Change.org to agree to a contract that will be in effect until May 2016.
“Overall, I think it’s a step in the right direction, although it’s definitely not everything that we wanted,” said Tai.
“UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland values our mission of educating physicians-in-training to become the next generation of pediatric caregivers,” said Dr. Bertram Lubin, president and CEO of Children’s Hospital Oakland, in a prepared statement. “We are pleased to have reached an agreement that further enables our residents to thrive and become pediatricians and pediatric sub-specialists in our community,” he added. (Lubin was unavailable for an interview, declining further comment on the contract.)
The new agreement “doubles the educational allowance” for the 91 resident physicians working at Children’s Hospital Oakland, and provides “an additional subsidy to help cover the cost of the Board Exams that residents must take in their final year of residency,” according to the press release.
The contract also establishes the reassignment of an existing fund of $93,000, operated by the non-profit CHO Foundation, to be used as a patient care fund. This was one of the residents’ major requests and will be designated to buy equipment and discharge medications—the drugs that patients have to purchase after leaving the hospital.
“We really would have liked the hospital to contribute to the patient care fund,” said Tai. She added that the hospital “didn’t really acknowledge” that this fund existed until now. However, now that the hospital has “formally recognized” it, the residents hope to be able to spend the money on patients’ other needs in addition to discharge medications. In the past, resident physicians used to raise money themselves for the fund.
The new agreement increases the residents’ educational allowance, which they use to pay for books, conference fees and electronic devices such as computers. This subsidy will be doubled for the three years of residency through May 2016, from $500 to $1,000 in the first year, $550 to $1,100 in the second year, and $600 to $1,200 in the third year.
Money for books and computers “might sound trivial, but I think that was a big thing for us,” said Tai. “Even though it is not salary, it really does help a lot.”