Paging doctor union

Anthony Isenalumhe Jr., 28, an anesthesiology resident, said his Bellevue Hospital Center union provides textbook money. He also trusts it to protect him from working longer hours than he already does — from 6:30 a.m. until the next morning.

New York’s youngest doctors are tired of being overworked and underpaid.

In the Bronx — a county which just yesterday was deemed to have the worst health care in the state, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation — residents at St. Barnabas are trying to unionize.

Residents — newbie doctors fresh out of medical school, typically in their late 20s — want a contract guaranteeing better pay. The hospital is fighting back, accusing residents of requesting comforts like sofas and coffeemakers.

Nearly 5,000 young doctors are unionized in the city. But what does a medical wage war mean for sick New Yorkers?

Libby Rhee, 29, a St. Barnabas dermatology resident, said that with a union, she’d have more power to fix problems. She recalled spending 20 minutes trying to find a machine to check a patient’s heartbeat. “That kind of thing is unacceptable,” she told Metro.

But Dr. Robert Klitzman, assistant professor at Columbia University Medical Center, who is not in a union, said a union may drain valuable hospital funds.

The cost of paying residents more, or filling in their work hours with extra employees, could trickle down to patients. Or, doctors in unions might strike, leaving the hospital without physicians.

“There’s a lot of questions,” he said. “Will there be costs, and who will bear them?”

“Why unions have not occurred more [among doctors],”?he added, “is because people are a resident for two, three years and then they become a physician and earn money and move on.”

State of health

The Bronx has the worst health — and health care — in the state, according to a University of Wisconsin report issued yesterday with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Bronx came in last in the state’s 62 counties for health care.

Queens was the highest of the five boroughs, ranked at 20, followed by Manhattan at 25. Staten Island came in at 28 and Brooklyn at 58.

The city’s Health Department revealed giant disparities in life expectancy and well-being.

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter at @AlisonatMetro.


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