ELMHURST, Queens (WABC) -- Resident physicians at Elmhurst Hospital hit the picket line Monday for a five-day strike, marking the first doctor strike in the city in more than 30 years.
The physicians, who are part of a training program run by Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine, are demanding better pay and benefits such as safe rides home from work at night.
The hospital is part of the Mount Sinai system, but resident physicians at Elmhurst say they make up to $7,000 less than their counterparts at Mount Sinai in Manhattan.
Striking doctors are also pointing out that two years ago, they were in the thick of the COVID pandemic. Elmhurst, a city run hospital, was the early epicenter of coronavirus cases during spring 2020.
The doctors want hazard pay should a medical crisis like COVID happen again.
In the meantime, it's expensive to replace the residents.
"These residents are paid at present $24 an hour and now the hospital is paying replacement practitioners $100 an hour," said union attorney Sam Jackson.
Right now resident doctors at Elmhurst make $68,000 a year but they want $75,000. They also want a safe ride home if they work late.
Fatigue after working long stressful hours is also a factor.
Dr. Michael Leitman, who heads the residency program, says he agrees to the demands. He insists the answer to raise request Sunday night was yes and he also says the money for a ride home has always been fine.
"Anybody that needs a ride home after hours, all they have to do is submit it for reimbursement and we'll take care of it," Leitman said.
A Mount Sinai spokesperson released the following statement:
"We are committed to working towards an equitable and reasonable resolution that is in the best interest for both our residents at Elmhurst as well as for the Mount Sinai Health System. We are working closely with partners at Elmhurst Hospital on contingency plans to ensure the same quality and level of care and services that the local community expects and deserves are not affected by the strike."
This is the first doctor's strike in the city in over 30 years. It comes the second time the 160 doctors-in-training threatened to strike at Queens-based hospitals this month over wage increases.
"It is disappointing and disheartening that Mount Sinai is refusing to agree to pay parity for Elmhurst Hospital residents," said Dr. Irfa Khan. "We absolutely do not want to strike, but we feel as if we'll have no choice if Mount Sinai doesn't start bargaining in good faith with us doctors so we can agree on a fair contract. We were here when Mount Sinai needed us, where is Mount Sinai when the Elmhurst doctors and community needs them?"
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