“U of M resident doctor/under $10 an hour,” read a sign being carried by one of the hundreds of medical residents who picketed in front of the University Medical Center yesterday demanding a pay increase.
House Officer Association President Vikas Parekh, a third-year medical resident who helped organize the picket, said the average medical resident works 80 hours a week and is only paid $40,000 a year. That breaks down to $7 to $10 an hour the same wage as a fast food employee.
“Salary under $10 an hour? That doesn”t come anywhere near the level of education these people have. I have less of an education than them, and I make more than they do,” said Joel Nelson, an outpatient at the University Medical Center who noticed the demonstrators as he was leaving the hospital.
The medical residents are asking for a 3 percent pay increase each year to be included in their contracts.
Parekh said that every other University employee received a 3 percent pay raise and that medical residents should not be treated any differently.
HOA and the University Health System have been involved in negotiations for the past seven months without reaching an agreement on the issue of resident wages.
“The administration hasn”t been willing to meet us in the middle,” Parekh said.
UMHS claims they do not have the additional funding to meet the residents” request for a wage increase, which would add an additional $1.4 million to the hospitals budget, Parekh said.
“These negotiations are taking place during a time when UMHS and all hospitals particularly academic medial centers face an extremely challenging fiscal climate,” said Lloyd Jacobs, senior associate hospital director.
But throughout the negotiation process the medical residents have remained dedicated to patient care by only picketing during their lunch breaks.
In addition to the low wages, medical residents are also faced with huge student loans that they are unable to defer during their residency.
Parekh said most residents have at least $100,000 in school loans, which means residents must pay $1,000 a month toward their loans 30 percent of their current salary.
“Most of us can”t do that,” Parekh said. “Many of us have families as well that we can”t afford to raise.”
“While the hospital may be having tough economic times we don”t feel what we are asking for is out of the University”s means,” he said. “In the end all we want is something fair and reasonable.”
Third-year resident Esteban Miller said he chose to picket yesterday to show the hospital that he is behind the HOA”s demands for a better contract and continued negotiations.
“We”ve fallen behind the national inflation rates,” Miller said. “People don”t go into medicine anymore to make tons of money.”
Jacobs said the hospital supports and values its medical residents, but is trying to avoid the dire economic situations that other hospitals are dealing with.
“UMHS has managed to reduce costs and stay in the black to this point, while other hospitals face deficits, layoffs and even closure. But we must keep these ongoing financial challenges firmly in mind when making any financial commitments, including those being discussed in negotiations,” Jacobs said.