June 18, 2024

For Immediate Release: Doctors Rally at Elmhurst Hospital Center to Address Critical Staffing Shortages Threatening New Yorkers' Health and Safety

For Immediate Release
Alex Catsoulis

Doctors Rally at Elmhurst Hospital Center to Address Critical Staffing Shortages Threatening New Yorkers' Health and Safety


Queens, New York — Today at 12pm ET, a group of attending physicians, supported by nurses, healthcare workers, and elected officials, gathered at Elmhurst Hospital Center, known as Ground Zero for COVID patients during the pandemic. The purpose of the rally was to highlight the critical staffing shortages that pose a significant threat to the health and safety of everyday New Yorkers.

Represented by Doctors Council SEIU, more than 2,800 physicians have been working under an expired contract since last summer and are currently engaged in contentious negotiations with NYC Health and Hospitals (H+H) and other affiliates including NYU, Mount Sinai, and PAGNY. Attending physicians are urging H+H and affiliates to quickly address staffing shortages to ensure safe and efficient healthcare for all New Yorkers.

“Since the pandemic, we have seen a significant increase in admissions for mental health, but we do not have enough psychiatrists to care for these patients. We even have units that have closed due to understaffing. The remaining physicians are under extreme pressure to see more and more patients, often with only a few minutes for each, because of the long list of patients requiring care. This dire situation leads to burnout, high turnover, and disrupts continuous patient care," said Jasmeet Sandu, MD, Hospitalist at Elmhurst Hospital and member of Doctors Council SEIU. "All New Yorkers deserve adequate care, regardless of their insurance or income. Elmhurst deserves better, its community deserves better, and our doctors deserve better."

The attending physicians raised concerns about poor staff retention and recruitment, attributing it to the lack of a fair contract.  They highlighted issues such as increased patient wait times, the postponement of major surgeries, and the potential inability to effectively respond to future health crises given the current infrastructure. This is particularly worrisome in light of the emergence of new COVID variants and ongoing health challenges in society.

"We need to be prepared for the next public health emergency. In 2020, Elmhurst Hospital was infamously recognized as the epicenter of the global COVID-19 pandemic, bursting at the seams and marked by harrowing death tolls, with refrigerated trucks parked outside to house the deceased. Fast forward to 2023, and the Elmhurst Emergency Department has recorded its highest patient volumes ever, surpassing even the peak of the pandemic. Despite a 20% surge in emergency department visits across the H+H system, staffing levels have remained stagnant. The city must provide us with a fair contract now to address this staffing crisis and demonstrate respect for its frontline providers and the citizens we care for," said Daniel Lugassy, MD, Emergency Dept. Elmhurst Hospital and member of Doctors Council SEIU.