Pension, tuition benefit concerns fuel looming doctor's strike

Pension benefits and tuition discounts are at the heart of a potential strike by Harlem Hospital doctors, who remain upset about a decision Health and Hospitals Corporation made earlier this year to limit a working relationship with Columbia University, the New York Times reports. 

While doctors at Harlem will still be able to teach Columbia medical students, they won't be considered employees with the university, and will lose out on a lucrative tuition reimbursement deal that pays for 100 percent of their children's college should they attend Columbia (and 50 percent at other schools). "High-cost tuition reimbursement for physician's children is a benefit that cannot be sustained," Ana Marengo, an HHC spokesman, told the Times. Marengo called the pension offered by Physician Affiliate Group, the private corporation run by HHC that now employs those doctors, "comparable." 

More than three-fourths of the hospital's 200 doctors disagree, though, calling for the Doctor's Council S.E.I.U. to strike. According to Dr. Matthews K. Hurley, an internist and a union leader, those benefits are what helped Harlem remain competitive despite lower salaries. 

"Most of us are here to serve, we're not here to get," Dr. Carol McLean-Long, another union leader, added. "But you have to have something to offer [the doctors] if you cannot offer them money." 

So far, 30 senior doctors have resigned or retired because of the move, Hurley told the newspaper. 

A meeting set for this Thursday will determine the strike date. 

To learn more:
- read this New York Times article