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UNMH resident physicians seek higher pay and better benefits

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New Mexico is experiencing a statewide doctor shortage,losing about 30% of our primary care physicians in the last four years. Resident physicians at the University of New Mexico represented by the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIRSEIU) are seeing the impact and will be holding a “unity break” event Wednesday to demand better pay and benefits after seven months of negotiations that have gone nowhere.

UNMH is the only teaching hospital, level one trauma center, and dedicated children’s hospital in the state. The hospital has about 700 resident physicians.

A resident doctor is a medical school graduate and doctor in training who's in a graduate medical education program.

These physicians put in over 80-hour weeks but have some of the lowest resident salaries in the Southwest with first year residents making a little over $59,000, according to CIRSEIU. That’scompared to the median $62,500 across 5 states. These gaps in pay with other programs are even higher for physicians who are further along in their training.

Dr. Rupali Gautam is a Committee of Interns and Residents member says, UNM has only offered a 2% pay increase and hasn’t budged on any of the other demands and that has left residents feeling discouraged and burnt out.

Dr. Gautam also said that residents play a huge role in patient care and most of the time residents are the first doctors to interact with a patient and provide primary care.

If you don’t feel valued by your institution and your employer, you’re going to leave eventually. At the end of the day, resident wellness equals patient wellness” said Dr. Gautam.

That resident doctor says that the doctor shortage is only going to get worse. Right now, she’s learning how to bridge the gap in care and catching patients who otherwise would fall through the cracks and wants to continue her training, but doesn’t know what the future holds.

“It does make me pause and think about my future if I want to stay in New Mexico after I finish my residency,” Dr. Gautam.

The “Unity Break” event will be held outside of UNMH Wednesday on the northeast corner of Stanford and Lomas from 12-12:30 PM.'

KUNM reached out to UNMH and spokesperson Chris Ramirez sent this statement concerning the CIR Unity Break event:

"The UNM School of Medicine and UNM Hospital is aware of the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) 'unity break.'

UNM respects and honors trainees’ right to speech and assembly and New Mexico laws that permit labor unions to organize. This activity did not interfere with patient care.

The UNM School of Medicine and UNM Hospital are proud to offer Graduate Medical Education (GME) through medical residencies and fellowships. UNM’s GME program is nationally recognized for its emphasis on rural health care and serving diverse populations, with more than 200 doctors completing their training with UNM each year. Training New Mexico’s and our nation’s next generation of health care workers is a responsibility UNM takes seriously and has been committed to for more than 70 years.

UNM deeply values the more than 700 trainees enrolled in GME programs across a wide spectrum of health care professions. The UNM School of Medicine and UNM Hospital are grateful to the many preceptors, faculty, and providers who work every day to pass along their expertise, knowledge, and skills to each trainee.

While organizers representing the CIR may make statements about changes they would like to see, it’s important our community knows that leadership at the UNM School of Medicine and UNM Hospital have been involved in active dialogue with this union for some time and remain committed to ongoing conversations to ensure all trainees feel supported, valued, and prepared for the next step in their health care careers."

This story has been changed to reflect that the union has been in negotiations with hospital administrators for seven months, the name of the doctor interviewed, and UNMH's statement.

Taylor is a reporter with our Poverty and Public Health project. She is a lover of books and a proud dog mom. She's been published in Albuquerque The Magazine several times and enjoys writing about politics and travel.
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