‘We are struggling’: Resident doctors call out UW Medicine in full-page ad

SEATTLE — The union representing 1,400 University of Washington resident and fellow physicians used a full-page ad in the Seattle Times to call out UW Medicine for working conditions and wages that it said have left doctors-in-training feeling devalued and struggling to make ends meet.

“Today, we have reached a breaking point,” the Sunday ad reads, addressed to UW Medicine CEO Paul Ramsey. “Our working conditions have taken a toll on our wellness and ultimately a toll on our ability to care for our community.”

The University of Washington Housestaff Association said its contract expired last year and negotiations with UW have been ongoing ever since, leaving wages that rank poorly to peer institutions, stagnant. UWHA said first-year residents make $58,224 a year.

"Listen to the people telling you they're barely making it by paying rent,” said Dr. Hasib Yousufzai, a first-year internal medicine resident working with COVID-19 patients. “Listen to the residents who say they're struggling with burn out and you're not providing counselors."

The Seattle City Council backed UW’s resident and fellow physicians in a letter sent to the University of Washington last week that said, in part, “It is concerning that these healthcare providers, who are so crucial to the wellbeing of our communities, have not been offered an equitable contract.”

The council’s letter expresses concern about the city losing quality doctors because they can’t afford to live in Seattle.

“Yet, still you propose wages that do not keep up with inflation,” the union’s ad reads. “Leaving us worse off each year than the last.”

In a statement, UW Medicine said:

"Residents and fellows are critical members of our healthcare community. The UW has been negotiating in good faith with the UWHA since July of 2019 and we have met 30 times as of April 29. The package that the University is offering is valued at over $17 million in additional costs for 2019-2022 (approximately 15% of the total UWHA payroll over 3 years). This offer includes benefits in addition to increased salary.

“The UW has continued to apply the terms of the previous collective bargaining agreement during contract negotiations, consistent with Washington State law. We have attempted to make a compelling offer as part of bargaining, taking into account the value residents and fellows bring to our healthcare system, remaining competitive as an employer and training institution, balanced with our system finances.”