Greater than 150 trainee medical doctors went on strike Monday morning at Elmhurst Hospital Middle in Queens, the primary doctor strike at a hospital in New York Metropolis in additional than 30 years.

Chief amongst their grievances is the truth that they’re usually paid much less working at a public hospital in Queens, the place they take care of poor sufferers, than their counterparts are paid at wealthier Manhattan establishments.

Although the strike is comparatively small and never anticipated to lead to main disruptions to care, it’s heavy on symbolism. Some three years in the past, Elmhurst was among the many first hospitals in america to be overwhelmed by Covid-19.

Descriptions of panicked, gasping sufferers, chest compressions and refrigerated morgue vehicles — scenes one Elmhurst physician described as “apocalyptic” — served as a warning for the remainder of the nation.

Now the placing younger medical doctors, a lot of whom have been nonetheless in medical faculty in 2020, say the pandemic has inspired activism and organizing — and a rising willingness to problem the low pay younger trainee medical doctors obtain for working lengthy and grueling hours.

Trainee medical doctors who work on the metropolis’s public hospitals have usually been reluctant to rock the boat previously. Many have been born and educated overseas and are in america on a visa.

“As worldwide residents, we’re at all times so grateful — we really feel very fortunate to be right here,” mentioned Dr. Sarah Hafuth, a pacesetter among the many resident physicians, who comes from Canada. She added: “The pandemic was an eye-opener. Physicians actually began to query our price and asking, ‘Are we getting the help we’d like, given the scenario we’re in?’”

At Elmhurst, residents had extra issue acquiring hazard pay in the course of the pandemic than residents at some Manhattan hospitals. That angered many resident physicians and hazard pay stays one of many points driving the strike, one union delegate, a psychiatry resident, Dr. Tanathun Kajornsakchai, mentioned on Friday.

Doctor strikes are a rarity in america. The final one in New York Metropolis, in line with the Committee of Interns and Residents, the union organizing this week’s strike, was in 1990 when younger medical doctors at a Bronx hospital went on strike for 9 days. They finally gained a pay increase and stricter enforcement of guidelines towards working greater than 12 hours in a row.

Although the placing medical doctors work at Elmhurst, they’re employed by the Icahn College of Drugs at Mount Sinai, which has its headquarters in Manhattan.

Docs at a lot of New York’s 11 public hospitals are employed by main Manhattan hospitals and medical faculties — the results of longstanding “affiliation” agreements between the general public hospital system and the town’s main medical establishments.

That implies that the town’s public hospital system, NYC Well being + Hospitals, is basically a bystander within the negotiations.

“Our medical residents play a important position in affected person care, and we’re hopeful they are going to attain a labor settlement quickly to keep away from a strike,” the general public hospital system mentioned in a press release. “Within the meantime, we’re making all the required preparations to make sure uninterrupted entry to affected person care companies if there’s a strike.”

Chief among the many residents’ complaints is that their counterparts working at Mount Sinai’s major hospital, reverse Central Park on East 98th Avenue, make significantly extra.

Dr. Hafuth mentioned that first-year residents assigned to Elmhurst made about $68,000 a yr, whereas the residents working at Mount Sinai’s major campus made $75,000. The Manhattan resident physicians even have a number of perks, Dr. Hafuth mentioned, together with that they’ll take a automotive service residence at night time.

“Our affected person load is all the identical,” she mentioned. “We see the identical medical pathologies, the identical complexity. So we’re at a degree the place we’re fairly annoyed about why Mount Sinai is prepared to pay the residents on the Higher East Aspect greater than us.”

A spokeswoman for Mount Sinai, Lucia Lee, mentioned in a press release that the well being system was “dedicated to working towards an equitable and affordable decision that’s in the very best curiosity for each our residents at Elmhurst in addition to for the Mount Sinai Well being System.”

The strike comes after greater than 10 months of contract negotiations between Mount Sinai and the Committee of Interns and Residents, the union that represents the resident medical doctors. Mount Sinai mentioned that the union rejected its “final, greatest and ultimate provide” — which, in line with Mount Sinai, would have offered for raises of between 5 and seven p.c a yr, for the subsequent three years.

As many as 172 medical doctors went on strike at 7 a.m. Monday, drawn from the departments of inside drugs, pediatrics and psychiatry.

“Our devoted employees are able to tackle further shifts, and we will mobilize clinicians from different well being system hospitals if obligatory,” the assertion from the general public hospital system mentioned.