NYC Health + Hospitals physicians file staffing grievances amid contract talks

Resident physicians have filed dozens of grievances with New York City's public hospital system, alleging systemic understaffing that their union says leaves about 2,300 physicians at NYC Health + Hospitals chronically overworked.

The grievances, announced May 1, represent 483 individual incidents in two weeks, including those in which physicians had to perform tasks outside of their job scope, according to the Committee of Interns and Residents, the nation's largest house staff union and a local of the Service Employees International Union. 

The incidents span a range of departments such as emergency and internal medicine, OB-GYN, pediatrics and surgery across seven of the health system's facilities, and represent demands placed on new physicians, including drawing blood, transporting patients and performing social work tasks, according to the union. The CIR contends the tasks reduce the amount of time physicians are able to spend treating patients and are the result of understaffing.

"The out-of-title work tasks that are the subject of the grievances pull them away from time with their patients as physicians — so counseling them about their care and follow up, answering their questions, talking to their families and answering their questions, studying their case, as well as the continued medical education that's supposed to take place during residency and fellowship," Rachel Nass, lead communications coordinator with the union, told Becker's.

"This is all the result of understaffing — there should be enough professionals ([such as] phlebotomists, nurses, social workers) to handle these tasks. It contributes to extreme burnout, and is part of what makes it so difficult for doctors to want to stay on at H+H after residency, along with the low pay."

The grievance filing comes amid contract negotiations and follows a week of action physicians had in January, a City Council committee hearing in February and a protest outside the home of New York City Mayor Eric Adams  in March. Both parties have been negotiating since August, with one bargaining session earlier in 2023. The next bargaining session is May 9.

"NYC Health + Hospitals is grateful for our residents who play a critical role in patient care every day," a statement from the health system shared with Becker's said. "As negotiations are ongoing, we look forward to continued discussions with the Committee of Interns and Residents. Our goal is to strengthen our partnership and reach an agreement that is fair to CIR, NYC Health + Hospitals, and our city's taxpayers."

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