In summary

Interns, resident physicians and fellows in the University of California system are seeking due process protections through Assembly Bill 2114.

By Anna Yap, Special to CalMatters

Dr. Anna Yap is a 3rd year emergency medicine resident physician in Los Angeles and a regional vice president of the Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU, annalyap@gmail.com.

As doctors, we fight for our patients, advocating for improved patient care and safety in our hospitals. When our weekly shifts end, many of us volunteer to further treat underserved populations. 

Recently my colleagues and I have marched with Black Lives Matter, promoted Paid Sick Leave legislation and organized PPE drives to help our health care peers feel safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Residents provide the bulk of care for the most underserved in our community, serving as the major workforce at many of our county hospitals. 

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Currently interns, resident physicians and fellows in the University of California system may be disciplined or terminated for an infraction that is not directly related to our academic or clinical performance. This includes when we speak out for our patients, our community or our safety. When we speak, we are putting our education and career at risk. 

Who will advocate for us? 

Residents are a vulnerable working population. We spend years learning in the classroom before entering residency, and our on-the-job training involves tremendous sacrifice and stress. Because we match into residency programs, a termination can negatively affect our future educational and employment opportunities. And if we can’t practice, we are left without a job and on average $250,000 in medical school debt. 

Represented by the Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU, my colleagues at University of California, San Francisco, and UCLA have successfully negotiated labor contracts in the last year. But each time during bargaining, UC administrators denied residents the inclusion of due process protections, which many other residencies have. 

Enter 2020, COVID-19 and nationwide PPE shortages. Resident physicians across the country stood conflicted between the fear of catching and spreading the contagion and that of reprisal from hospital administrators for speaking out about the perilous working conditions we faced. Across the country we have seen attending physicians without due process lose their jobs for speaking out about unsafe working conditions. 

Due process is a fundamental employment right, but COVID-19 has proven that for residents, who are even more vulnerable, it is non-negotiable. 

California’s Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez, a Democrat from Pomona, listened to resident appeals for due process. By sponsoring Assembly Bill 2114, he has demonstrated his respect and appreciation for the work we do. 

AB 2114 provides a procedure for UC medical and dental interns and residents to “challenge a termination of employment or a disciplinary action by a [higher education] employer.” This bill specifically allows for due process in non-academic or clinical matters – it would be only for professional, working matters. Residents absolutely want to be smart, competent and dedicated physicians, and this bill does not take away from that. 

Our Assemblymembers prioritized the legislation amidst a condensed legislative session, recognizing the urgency for UC resident due process protections, and passed the bill, 58-17, during a floor vote on June 10. 

As we await the bill’s introduction in the Senate, we urge our state senators and Gov. Gavin Newsom to swiftly approve this measure and protect California’s interns, residents and fellows who, in spite of the tireless hours we devote to our communities, are not afforded these basic employment rights. Though this is a small protection, it is an important right for interns, residents and fellows working every day toward the health and safety of all Californians.

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The views expressed in this piece are my own. I do not speak for my institution. 

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