The community protests for a new contract

Hundreds of residents and doctors at LAC + USC Hospital quit their jobs to protest a new contract that included increased living allowances, wages and benefits. (Emmett Fuchs | Daily Trojan Horse)

Hundreds of resident doctors at LAC + USC Hospital quit their jobs Tuesday to protest a new Los Angeles County contract that includes increased wages and improved benefits. LA County has so far refused to negotiate a new contract, according to a press release from the Intern and Resident Committee.

Residents and doctors have said they want new contracts that increase housing subsidies to compete with nearby programs.

Wearing lab coats, white coats and holding signs reading “Support LA County Resident Doctors,” protesters lined the stairs outside LAC + USC as residents, doctors and local politicians such as Senator Californian María Elena Durazo and Assembly Member Miguel Santiago delivered speeches, praising the residents’ work during the pandemic and supporting their protests.

“You have saved the lives of our communities as you put your own life and that of your own family in danger,” Santiago said. “So what we are asking here today is not much. What we’re asking for here today is just a simple contract that says, “We appreciate your work. “

LAC + USC, located near the Health Sciences Campus and one of the nation’s largest hospitals, is affiliated with the Keck School of Medicine and is owned by LA County.

Dr Adam Freeman, a negotiating committee delegate who spoke at the protest, said LAC + USC must attract physicians who are dedicated to serving the community.

“We need to increase our economic compensation in terms of benefits and wages so that we can bring in these visitors,” Freeman said in an interview with the Daily Trojan after the protest. “There are a lot of other hospitals in Los Angeles that have similar patient populations, but they have better [salaries] and benefits.

Dr. Max Yang, internal medicine internist at LAC + USC, said: “Every residency program in [Southern California] has a housing subsidy, and they can go up to $ 10,000… We’re at least trying to get parity with competing programs in the area.

According to Freeman, LA County has declined to increase “living or housing” coverage, citing financial limitations and will instead extend the current contract by six months.

Los Angeles City Comptroller Ron Galperin, who spoke at the event, said the county “[has] these resources ”for the residents, and he has“ an obligation on the part of our county to look after you as you have looked after everyone and do every day ”.

“I’m all for saving money, but you’re saving money on the good things, not the bad ones,” Galperin said.

Internal medicine internist Dr Blake Adnani said a weaker contract would lead to a deterioration in hospital care.

“If you don’t have great residents who come here, then you don’t have great doctors who are [going to] stay here to become faculty members and take care of these patients for the long term, ”Adnani said. “It’s kind of an institutional problem where, if you don’t fix it now, it causes long-term problems. “

During the protest, speakers highlighted the extra work that residents have faced as a result of the pandemic, including long working hours, the risk of contracting the coronavirus, and the comfort of sick patients whose families could not. enter the hospital.

“All of us have residency and scholarship programs impacted by this pandemic, even sometimes forgoing education and training opportunities to help you during a COVID outbreak,” Freeman said. “We avoided the family to avoid exposing them [to coronavirus] and launched our own [personal protective equipment] drive to make sure the hospital never runs out of equipment.

When Durazo spoke, she led the residents to chant “Bargain now!” No more delays! – the cries directed against the County. Durazo also spoke about the disparate impact of the coronavirus on blacks, natives and people of color, affirming the need for the “best doctors” in the community around LAC + USC and the county’s responsibility to give back to residents for their work in the community.

“We have to be there and be by your side. All of this is for the health and well-being of our communities, especially our most affected communities and especially the poorest, ”said Durazo. “Every person deserves the best health care.”

At the end of his speech, Freeman reaffirmed the residents’ commitment to securing a new contract.

“We are paying over $ 200,000 in student debt, we don’t qualify for overtime or full retirement benefits, we work an average of 80 hours a week,” he said. “Our response to the county is that we haven’t turned around for the pandemic, and we’re not going to turn around now.”

In a statement to the Daily Trojan, LAC + USC said the CIR collective bargaining is taking place at the LA County CEO’s office.

“In support of our mission, LA County Health Services provide extraordinary care in our community with compassion and respect. This could not be done without our workforce who provide best-in-class care, ”the statement said. “We want to thank our employees for their heroic efforts throughout the pandemic and as we move towards better normalcy.”

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