ELMHURST, Queens (PIX11) — For the first time in three decades, doctors in New York City have walked off the job. Resident doctors at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, still in their scrubs, took to the picket line Monday to start a five-day strike.
“We work very hard to care for our patients. It’s a totally consuming job and we are happy to do it because we love our community, we love caring for them. And we’d love for when we go home to be able to care for ourselves as well,” said Dr. Youssef Abdel-Gawad, a psychiatry resident.
Elmhurst is part of the Mount Sinai Hospital System. At the kick-off rally, the residents alleged that their counterparts at the Manhattan location get paid thousands of dollars more than they do for the same amount of work. Union leaders said they have been trying to negotiate what they consider a fair contract for almost a year, but they claimed the hospital is not negotiating in good faith.
“Mount Sinai knows exactly what they are doing, pitting workers against each other by offering better salaries and benefits to non-union colleagues. This is the oldest trick in the book. Even after a year of negotiation, Mount Sinai is still refusing to provide the same kind of support and resources they provide our wealthier, whiter neighborhoods,” said Dr. Tanathun Kajornsakchai, who is with the psychiatry department.
The residents are requesting better work conditions and a wage increase before they resume caring for patients.
“Even pay to Mount Sinai, also demanding a housing stipend to help with cost of living, which is really a concern for residents here at Elmhurst,” said resident physician Dr. Michael Zingman.
Elmhurst is one of the most diverse communities in the United States and was among the hardest hit at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Medical staff members were pushed to their limits when COVID-19 deaths took off.
“It was you that allowed this city to open up. Make no mistake,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.
A spokesperson for the Mount Sinai Hospital System issued the following statement to PIX11 News:
“We are committed to working towards an equitable and reasonable resolution that is in the best interest for both our residents at Elmhurst as well as for the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and are working closely with partners at Elmhurst Hospital to ensure the same quality and level of care and services that the local community expects and deserves are not affected by the strike.
We have offered a package that is commensurate or above the tentative agreement between residents at Jamaica and Flushing Hospitals and are committed to finding a mutually acceptable solution as soon as possible. To view details of the offer, visit https://icahn.mssm.edu/education/residencies-fellowships/supporting-our-residents.”