I read the news story about resident physicians at Elmhurst Hospital Center in New York City who went on strike this past Monday about low pay. The story doesn’t mention whether psychiatry residents joined the strike. The story did mention how difficult it was to work there during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
I looked up the report from the consultation-liaison psychiatry department at Elmhurst during that time. Their report and many others were submitted to the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry (ACLP).
The Elmhurst report was submitted April 1, 2020 by Dr. Shruti Tiwari, MD, Professor Consultation-Liaison, Icahn School of Medicine at Elmhurst Hospital Center, Queens, NY.
I read the report in order to figure out what I and my colleagues at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics needed to do in order to respond to psychiatry consultation requests in the setting of the Covid-19 pandemic. In general, we followed the Elmhurst suggestions.
I remember how difficult it was to operationalize the consultation protocol in light of the need to control spread of the Covid-19 infection. We worked with our IT department to use iPad devices with video hookups to evaluate patients in the emergency room. Early on, incredible as it may seem, there was limited supply of PPE for emergency room physicians.
We could do curbside consultations sometimes. Often, when I was on service, I found it difficult to use the iPad because of glitches in the device. In order to reduce the number of consultation team members huddling together, residents and I saw patients separately. Often, delirium with agitation demanded we evaluate the patient in person. There was an adequate supply of PPE with some limitations. Psychiatric consultants didn’t have access to N95 masks because of the shortage of them at the time. We wore surgical masks and face shields as well as gowns and gloves. We were not to see patients in the ICUs other than by video assisted means.
I couldn’t tell from the news story when the residents formed a union. One them was interviewed for the story and said that their immigrant status made working conditions more difficult as well as insufficient pay. The story also mentions that the last time doctors went on strike in Manhattan was in 1990.
It would have been difficult for physicians (including psychiatrists) to go on strike during the pandemic, probably impossible. I’ve written about physician strikes before and have given my opinion about that. I hope things work out for the Elmhurst resident physicians and the patients.