ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A group of resident doctors walked out of work on Wednesday to protest outside of UNM Hospital. They’re demanding better pay and working conditions.

More than 100 protestors gathered outside of UNMH Wednesday. Most are in their residency at the hospital and are a part of the Committee of Interns and Residents, a nationwide union.

“Our main priority has and always will be patient care. We came into this profession because we value what we do, and we care about what we do, but to continue caring for our patients, we need to take care of ourselves as well,” said Rupali Gautam, a resident at UNMH.

They want higher wages and more benefits at work as inflation is high. They said, after months of bargaining with the hospital, they are still the lowest-paid residents and fellows regionally. Originally asking for a 12% raise, they said UNMH offered them a 2% increase.

State Representative Eleanor Chavez said state leaders are looking at ways to increase incentives for medical workers.

“We’ve talked about debt forgiveness definitely, and there are some debt forgiveness programs that they can apply for. In terms of sign-on bonuses, that’s something that the hospital should be negotiating with the union,” said Rep. Eleanor Chavez (D-ABQ).

There are currently 700 graduate medical education residents or trainees at UNMH. Chavez mentioned the residents should be seeing the 5% increase for state workers that was approved in the last legislative session. However, the hospital told KRQE these trainees are not UNMH employees and because they are unionized they must bargain with UNM to establish a salary schedule.

“Over the past few years, there has been some increases given to the staff at UNM Hospital, and residents are not being given any of those increases. We are just asking UNM to be fair,” said Silvia Santiago, a resident at UNMH.

UNMH said they are still negotiating the contract. The current contract expired in August.

The UNM Health and Health Sciences spokesperson released the following statement:

UNMH 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.

Chris Ramirez
Spokesperson for UNM Health and Health Sciences