Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) this week sent a letter to interns, residents and fellows of the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) in support of their efforts to form a union. Sanders recently met with UVMMC residents who shared with him how organizing a union would lead not only to decent wages and better working conditions, but also to improved care for their patients.
“Many Vermonters understand, as patients, that our health care system is broken in many ways,” wrote Sanders in the letter of support. “But what they might not see is that the system is broken for residents as well … Patients want and deserve physicians who treat them to be rested, not unduly stressed and adequately compensated for their difficult and vitally important work. That really is not too much to ask.”
Sanders continued, “Interns, residents and fellows should not have to work 80 hours a week because the old system of medicine allowed for it. They should not have to give up everything in their lives, take no days off, hold off on having children, and take on debilitating debt – all to be good doctors. They should not be forced to live on salaries that are so low that many of them struggle to pay for basic needs like housing and child care. We can do better than that and your advocacy and your persistence is what will inevitably change our system.”
With the third year of the Coronavirus pandemic and the specter of a new sub-variant, health care workers continue to risk their lives to keep communities healthy and safe. Today, more than 330 residents work at UVMMC, making up the majority of the physician workforce caring for patients at the facility. Together with their nurse colleagues, who first formed a union in 2002, these organized health care providers will be better positioned to negotiate for policies that prioritize patient care over executives’ salaries.
“There is no one that I would trust more to advocate for our health care system in Vermont than the frontline health care workers who risked their lives to care for us during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sanders wrote. “Your efforts to unionize will only ensure we are better prepared for the next years of recovery and for the quality health care that all Vermonters deserve.”