As delegates of the Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU, we represent ninety resident doctors who serve at Children’s Hospital Oakland (CHO). We work shifts as long as 28 hours, caring for children in the emergency room, intensive care unit, and clinic. Last year we had an estimated 236,877 patient visits, 46,146 of which came through the ER. For the majority of patients, a resident is the first doctor they encounter at the hospital. We love the work we do and believe that our patients deserve the most compassionate, competent doctors available.
Unfortunately, CHO’s administration is considering some troubling changes to our residency program. Next year, the hospital will reduce the number of residents that join our program. This could jeopardize patient safety by reducing the already high patient-physician ratio. CHO relies heavily on residents who earn $52,000-$60,000 a year working eighty-hour weeks. We deliver most of the hands-on care that patients receive, and because of residents, CHO is able to fulfill its mission to serve Bay Area children. Even cutting a few resident spots would overtax those providing care.
We have been working without a contract for the past eight months. During bargaining sessions, the administration has rejected all of our proposals, including a fund to purchase necessary hospital equipment to improve care. We have also requested a regular review to ensure that equipment and computers function properly, which would improve efficiency and save the hospital money in the long term. Finally, we have requested that the hospital increase our salaries to keep up with the cost of living. Yet CHO proposes keeping our wages stagnant for the next three years. If this happens, the best and brightest residents who might have been attracted to our program will be drawn elsewhere — to Stanford and UCSF — when they realize that their peers at those places are paid more competitive wages.
If CHO truly values Oakland’s families, why is it planning to reduce the number of resident doctors available to care for patients? If the hospital wants to maintain a competent, compassionate workforce, why has it ignored what doctors say is necessary to provide first-rate care?
Even in the face of disrespect from the administration, we are happy to serve the patient population at CHO. We want CHO to empower employees to help make it a quality care provider. An investment in the residency program is an investment in the children in the East Bay. If CHO wishes to continue to provide high-quality services, it must start to bargain in good faith with its resident doctors.