Covid-19 Resources

National Covid-19 Resources

 

First of all, THANK YOU. Never has the term “front-line provider” been more apt. You are the first line of defense for your patients and the community as you continue to provide care and work to ensure the safety of your colleagues in a situation akin to war. We’ve received dozens of resident stories and reports from the frontlines, and hundreds of surveys documenting the challenges of this pandemic at your hospitals.

 
 

Important Updates

Graduation Changes

View graduation changes by department/specialty.

Housing Resources

Hotels for healthcare workers in NYC and California.

Workers’ Compensation

CIR Workers’ Compensation advisories

 

 
 

Immigration

U.S. Government Modifies Temporary Suspension of Routine Visa Services for Medical Personnel

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced on March 20, 2020 that it was immediately cancelling all routine appointments at U.S. Embassies and Consulates. On March 20, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) also suspended premium processing of various petitions, including the H-1B petitions upon which so many house staff physicians rely.  No date certain was provided for resumption of either service. Only emergency and “mission critical” visa services were reported as continuing, based upon the availability of resources. 

Recognizing the disastrous impact of both suspensions upon incoming J-1 and H-1B residents and ultimately the patient population, CIR engaged in discussions with SEIU’s legislative liaison and immigration counsel and connected with the ECFMG.  CIR prepared detailed statements describing the harmful impact that these actions would have on house staff physicians. 

CIR’s statement on Suspension of Routine Visa Services 

CIR’s statement on Premium Processing

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The U.S. Department of State has now made a crucial modification to its suspension of routine visa services to allow “medical personnel, particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19” to apply for a visa and request an emergency appointment. (Please see the link below.) Applicants should follow the guidance provided on each Embassy’s website regarding how to make that request. This is a very important turn of events and should allow J-1s to enter the U.S. to timely start their residency programs. While we anticipate that the concerns about our residents obtaining visa appointments have been resolved, if CIR members or incoming residents who will begin training at a CIR hospital this June are having trouble, please let us know via email at legal@cirseiu.org.

For our incoming residents in H-1B status, there is an important distinction because they must have an H-1B petition approved by the USCIS before they are eligible to apply for a visa with the DOS. So, USCIS’s suspension of premium processing for H-1B cases is still a barrier to those H-1Bs entering the U.S. on time. CIR will continue to advocate for a carve out for resident physicians from this suspension with the help of SEIU’s legislative liaison and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/42-automatic-extensions-employment-authorization-documents-eads-certain-circumstances (see bullet #6)

 

 

CIR & Resident-Led Actions

 

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, too many interns, residents, and fellows were forced to work in conditions that impaired their ability to provide quality patient care. CIR is committed to advocating for housestaff everywhere and continue to hold our institutions to higher standards of accountability during this crisis.

CIR is identifying local elected officials to sign on to our open letter to the ACGME and ABMS. The CIR Resident Bill of Rights was recently launched with an overwhelmingly positive response from a large public audience, who recognizes that the issues of paid sick time, workplace safety, protecting education, access to mental health support, the use of a collective voice, were not adequately addressed in statements put out by ACGME or ABMS.

 
 

Action Center

ProtectAllWorkers.org demands more PPE for healthcare workers.

Petition to stand with Bellevue CIR Physicians.

GoFundMe for NYC healthcare workers from NYC residents.

Organizing efforts for Resident PPE Supply at Harbor UCLA Medical Center

Call for PPE donations from Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center

 
 

Press Conference & Town Hall

On March 31, doctors hosted a press conference with New York City council members for improved working conditions amidst the pandemic. On March 20, CIR hosted a Presidential Advisory Townhall with representatives from Biden’s and Sander’s campaigns.

 
 
https://youtu.be/vuvNuMeyyYo
March 31, 2020 – CIR Resident Physicians from Mt Sinai Morningside, west and NYP Methodist talk with NY City Councilmembers Brad Lander. and Helen Rosenthal.
https://youtu.be/3R4LPk-xzWA
March 20, 2020 – CIR leaders talk to representatives from Vice President Joe Biden’s team and Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign about COVID-19 response, healthcare access, climate change and what changes they would make if elected President.
 
 

Political Support

Joint letter from NYC Councilmembers Helen Rosenthal and Brad Lander calls on NY hospitals to fulfill the resident physicians’ demands around COVID-19 and settle contract.

Partnership with the Nurses’ union in NY to ensure adequate PPE and protective measures.

Collaboration with SEIU California to enhance the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” H.R. 6201.

 

Media Coverage

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Click on the questions below to view the answers. If you’re not sure who your organizer is, please email us at info@cirseiu.org and we’ll connect you to the right person. The following COVID-19 FAQ is intended for CIR Members only.  (This guidance is intended to be informational only and should not be construed as legal advice. For non-CIR members consult with an attorney to determine the rights you have in your particular situation.)

1. Can resident physicians refuse to work under dangerous conditions?
CIR collective bargaining agreements typically contain language that requires just cause to discipline resident physicians. CIR, if a member is disciplined for refusing to perform work under hazardous conditions, we will enforce this just cause discipline standard. Some resident physicians, depending on the state they live in, have a right to refuse to perform work that they have a reasonable belief is hazardous. An example of hazardous work might be an employer demanding that a health care worker treat a COVID-19 positive patient without any PPE. Contact your CIR organizer immediately if your employer directs you to perform hazardous work.
2. Can a Hospital put a resident on unpaid leave if they are quarantined after returning from personal travel?
There is no law that would prohibit an employer from doing that. That said, CIR will take the position that residents should be able to use sick time if the Hospital is not already allowing it. If the hospital bars a resident from using sick time, CIR can file a grievance. In addition, certain states have amended their disability and/or unemployment insurance laws to allow for employees to apply for benefits if they are quarantined as a result of civil, medical or employer-mandated quarantine and either have exhausted their sick time or are being barred by their employer from utilizing it. If this is an issue for you, please contact your CIR organizer.
3. Should a resident who is quarantined due to an exposure at work, but does not test positive, be required to use their paid leave time?
CIR’s position, in this circumstance, is that the resident should be paid while quarantined, but that they should not have to use any of their own leave time. Instead, Hospitals should allow House Officers to do clinical work such as virtual medical screenings, research or other educational activities where feasible. If a House Officer is required to use leave time in this situation, CIR can file a grievance on their behalf. If a healthcare provider, as opposed to an employer, requires the resident to be quarantined, it is possible that unemployment or workers’ compensation insurance may apply. Contact your CIR organizer if this occurs.
4. Can a Hospital enforce personal travel restrictions against residents?
There are no laws that prohibit an employer from restricting an employee’s travel. That said, if a resident ignores the employer’s restriction and is disciplined, the member or CIR can grieve on the grounds that it is discipline without good cause. Residents are advised to abide by travel instructions issued by the employer, as an arbitrator could well find that a personal travel restriction, in the face of a global pandemic, is reasonable and enforceable. Residents should note that Hospitals may require you to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their return from travel, depending on the locations to which they travelled. The following is a statement from the ACGME: Sponsoring Institutions and programs should be aware of resident/fellow travel history and plans. If plans include travel to high-risk areas, the individual should be informed about the risks of being unable to return and/or the possibility of being placed in quarantine.
5. Can an employer force a resident into self-quarantine if they break a travel restriction, or if a family member returns from a country with a high rate of COVID-19 (Italy, for example)?
In short yes. That said, the ACGME advises that any requirements for quarantine should be guided by the applicable institution’s policies, local health departments, and CDC recommendations. However, employers may not engage in unlawful discrimination or assumptions on the basis of a person’s race, national origin or ethnicity.
6. Will a resident’s training year be extended if they are quarantined or become sick with the coronavirus?
This is hard to answer with any certainty. We have received reports that some Residency Review Committees (“RRCs”) are encouraging programs to work with residents so they can finish their year/training on time. That said, if a resident is out for an extended period of time it would seem that an extension would be likely, especially if they’ve already taken a substantial amount of paid time off this residency year. The ACGME has shared a statement from the American Board of Medical Specialties (“ABMS”) with Designated Institutional Officials (“DIOs”). Included in the statement is a sentence saying the following: In situations in which quarantine impedes completion of on-time training, boards are receptive to case-by-case discussions and do not wish to penalize trainees for situations beyond their control.
7. If a resident physician contracts the virus at work, would workers’ compensation or short-term disability be available?
It cannot be said, with certainty that resident physicians and other health care providers will be able to obtain workers’ compensation coverage. However, it is likely that residents will be deemed covered if they contract the virus as part of their job. There would need to be evidence of a work-related exposure, but if the exposure is documented, the likelihood exists that residents will be able to successfully argue that their jobs put them at greater risk of exposure than the general public. Workers compensation laws vary by state so please contact your CIR organizer for questions about a specific case. Short-term disability is included in the benefits suite for some CIR hospitals. You should check with your CIR organizer to determine if disability insurance is part of your CIR benefits package. Short term disability may also be available pursuant to the state’s short-term disability program or a disability insurance policy. Contact your CIR organizer if you need further information on these subjects.
8. Can an employer cancel a resident physician’s vacation?
If there’s nothing in the CBA limiting them from doing so, then yes. If this situation occurs, the applicable collective bargaining agreement should be reviewed. Most typically, our agreements would require hospitals to pay residents for canceled vacation time. California law treats accrued vacations like wages and would require a payout regardless of what our CBA says. When Hospitals require a resident to cancel their vacation and refuse to commit to either compensating residents for the lost vacation time or rolling the vacation time into the next residency year, residents should contact their CIR organizer about potentially filing a grievance. Residents who file a grievance over lost vacation should demand that they are either paid or allowed to roll over the vacation to the following residency year. In addition, Residents who have incurred expenses or were required to pay cancellation fees as a result of their cancelled vacation should also consider seeking reimbursement for those costs. (Note: While accreditation boards have shown some flexibility in response to COVID-19, it is important to note that rolling over vacation to the following year might be complicated due to leave limitations under certain Board certification requirements.)
9. What legislative actions have federal and state governments taken in response to COVID-19?
Federal Legislative Response 1. Economic Stimulus – The economic stimulus package recently passed by congress and expected to be signed by the President will include:

  • Direct payments to American citizens of up to $1200 ($2400 for married couples)
  • Suspension of student loan payments without penalty through September 30
  • Protections against evictions for 120 days if a landlord receives a federally backed mortgage loan.

2. Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 Congress recently passed a bill, which the President signed, called Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 (“Act”). The Act provides for:

  • Free coronavirus testing
  • 10 paid sick days for employees who are being treated or quarantined for COVID-19, or for caring for such person. These paid sick requirements apply to employers with more than 50 and up to 500 employees.

State Legislative Responses There has been much COVID-19 related legislative activity in states in which CIR members work in the areas of unemployment insurance, suspension of evictions and leave time. Please check with the Legal Department with specific questions about your chapter.

10. Does the crisis allow hospitals to suspend duty hour limitations?
The Governor of New York has issued an Executive Order suspending regulations of resident duty hours There have not been, at this time, actions in other states addressing duty hour limitations. The ACGME, action by the Governor of NY notwithstanding, has not withdraw or relaxed its duty hour limitations The ACGME issued the following statement: The ACGME Common Program Requirements Section VI Work Hour Requirements will remain unchanged. Because safety of patients and residents/fellows is the ACGME’s highest priority, it is important that all residents and fellows receive adequate rest between clinical duties because violations of the work hours limitations have been associated with an increase in medical errors, which might lead to lapses in infection control. At a time when adherence to infection control procedures becomes an important safety issue, slips in this area could increase risks for both patients and residents/fellows. In addition, duty hours limits contained in your CIR Collective Bargaining Agreement may also limit your Hospital’s ability to exceed current work hours standards.
11. What should be expected clinically of residents when treating COVID-19 patients?
The following is from the ACGME:

  • any resident, fellow, and faculty member providing care to patients potentially infected with COVID-19 will be fully trained in treatment and infection control protocols and procedures adopted by their local health care setting; and,
  • any resident or fellow who provides care to patients will do so under the appropriate supervision for the clinical circumstance and the level of training of the resident/fellow. Faculty members are expected to have been trained in the treatment and infection control protocols and procedures adopted by their local health care settings. Sponsoring Institutions and programs should monitor the CDC website.

If you are being required perform work that you are untrained to do please notify your CIR organizer. Please note that many states have whistleblower protections for health care workers who are retaliated against for raising concerns about improper quality of patient care or who refuse to participate in an activity or practice of their employer that they, in good faith, reasonably believe constitutes improper quality of patient care. Residents who experience such retaliation should contact their CIR organizer immediately.

12. What if a resident misses a Board required rotation as a result of the Coronavirus?
The following is from the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS): In most cases, specialty boards’ existing leave policies will cover training disruptions caused by quarantine, and boards are supportive of creative strategies to recognize learning opportunities that can take place during such times.
13. Will there be a priority for testing residents for COVID-19 over the public?
This, at least at present, seems to be decided hospital by hospital. Even the quality of the test offered seems to vary hospital by hospital. The following is from the CDC website: Clinicians considering testing of persons with possible COVID-19 should continue to work with their local and state health departments to coordinate testing through public health laboratories, or use COVID-19 diagnostic testing, authorized by the Food and Drug Administration under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) through clinical laboratories. Increasing testing capacity will allow clinicians to consider COVID-19 testing for a wider group of symptomatic patients. Clinicians should use their judgment to determine if a patient has signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19 and whether the patient should be tested. Most patients with confirmed COVID-19 have developed fever1 and/or symptoms of acute respiratory illness (e.g., cough, difficulty breathing). Priorities for testing include: Other considerations that may guide testing are epidemiologic factors such as the occurrence of local community transmission of COVID-19 infections in a jurisdiction. Clinicians are strongly encouraged to test for other causes of respiratory illness.


PRIORITY 1 Ensure optimal care options for all hospitalized patients, lessen the risk of nosocomial infections, and maintain the integrity of the healthcare system

  • Hospitalized patients
  • Symptomatic healthcare workers

PRIORITY 2 Ensure that those who are at highest risk of complication of infection are rapidly identified and appropriately triaged

  • Patients in long-term care facilities with symptoms
  • Patients 65 years of age and older with symptoms
  • Patients with underlying conditions with symptoms
  • First responders with symptoms
  • Individuals with mild symptoms in communities experiencing high COVID-19 hospitalizations

NON-PRIORITY

  • Individuals without symptoms
14. Will residents be reimbursed for conferences they have paid for but are not able to attend because they’ve been cancelled or are not permitted to travel?
If the Hospital agreed to reimburse a resident for expenses related to a conference, they should still reimburse residents if they do not allow the resident to travel to it, or if the conference is cancelled. Notify your CIR organizer if you do not receive a reimbursement.
15. Will residents receive extra “emergency pay” or overtime?
This would have to be negotiated in a side letter with the hospital. Hospitals will likely take the position that this is not something they have to negotiate mid-contract. If there are ongoing CBA negotiations at a hospital we could consider, depending where we are in negotiations, submitting a proposal on this.
16. Can a hospital ask a resident if they have a health condition that could make them vulnerable to the coronavirus? Can they take resident temperatures?
Asking an employee about their health condition would likely lead to the disclosure of a disability. Therefore, the question would violate the law. However, the EEOC currently advises that because coronavirus is a pandemic, as assessed by health authorities and the CDC, employers may measure employee body temperatures.
17. Would a hospital be required to make a reasonable accommodation if a resident has a medical condition that would make them vulnerable to the coronavirus?
If a resident has a disability, such as a respiratory ailment or compromised immune system, the hospital may be required to provide the resident with a reasonable accommodation to protect their health. Potential reasonable accommodations could include working from home or being assigned to non-COVID-19 patients. If you have a medical condition that is not being accommodated you should contact your CIR organizer.
18. What can a hospital tell others about a resident’s health condition?
A hospital is required to keep resident medical information private and confidential; however, COVID-19 is a reportable illness under OSHA’s Injury and Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements. Private hospitals and certain public hospitals covered by OSHA are expected to advise employees if they were subjected to a potential exposure from a fellow employee, though they should not identify the colleague who tested positive. The CDC advises the following: If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19 infection, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The fellow employees should then self-monitor for symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath).
19. Can the hospital stop a resident from staying home to take care of a family member who is sick with the coronavirus?
Hospitals may not discipline employees for taking FMLA qualifying leave. Similar state laws would also prohibit this.
20. If a resident must stay home to care for a family member will they be paid?
The FMLA grants eligible employees who have been employed for at least 12 months the right to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition. The existence of state and local laws that provide paid leave for family medical care vary by jurisdiction. Please contact your CIR organizer if you have any questions.
21. If schools are closed do residents have the right to stay home to take care of the children? Will they still be paid?
State or local laws may address this. California Labor Code, for example, requires employers of 25 or more employees to allow employees to take 40 hours of leave to address a school emergency. Please contact your CIR organizer with questions specific to your chapter.
22. Can a resident be placed in the jeopardy pool if they require coverage as a result of the Coronavirus?
This would likely vary from hospital to hospital. That said, missing a shift and requiring coverage because of the coronavirus doesn’t seem likely to be treated differently than missing a shift for some other reason.
23. What should a resident do if a hospital cancels elective procedures and it affects their ability to get board certified?
If the situation above occurs, the resident physician should check with the relevant Board about their eligibility questions and discuss what steps they need to take.
24. Can CIR advocate that hospitals allow for residents to telecommute when possible?
CIR can propose to hospitals that they allow telecommuting (for example, virtual medical screening) where feasible. While many hospitals would likely argue that whether to allow telecommuting is their prerogative and is covered by the management rights clause of the collective bargaining agreement, the CDC and public health departments are directing employers to offer this option where feasible. In addition, telecommuting might be deemed a reasonable accommodation for residents who have a disability that places them at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Note that employers in jurisdictions where a “shelter in place” order has been issued, may be required to allow telecommuting where feasible.
25. If fellows are “upgraded” to a junior attending role, should they be paid as attendings? Would this essentially be moonlighting?
Possibly. This is a fact specific question that would depend on the nature of the new job responsibilities as well as any relevant contract language in the collective bargaining agreement. Please contact your CIR organizer with specific questions about your chapter.
26. Can the Hospital Redeploy Resident Physicians Outside Their Specialties?
The ACGME has advised that resident physicians should only provide patient care consistent with their level of training as a resident/fellow. However, we are aware that this has been happening. Please contact your CIR organizer if this happens at your hospital. Some states through Executive Orders have granted immunity from civil liability or loosened the restrictions on the practice of health care workers generally, including residents. For example, on March 23, 2020 a provision in an Executive Order issued by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated in part: “[A]ll physicians, physician assistants, specialist assistants, nurse practitioners, licensed registered professional nurses, and licensed practical nurses shall be immune from civil liability for any injury or death [allegedly sustained] directly or as a result of an act of omission [in the course of providing care in support of the COVID-19 emergency] unless it is established that such injury or death was caused by gross negligence.” (- governor.ny.gov) Similarly, Massachusetts Governor Charles Baker issued an Executive Order expanding access to physician services, which provided in part that limited licensees could engage in internal moonlighting under certain circumstances. (- mass.gov)
27. If New York State is guaranteeing sick leave for everyone, can we use that time instead of our sick days in our personal bank?
No. New York has set a floor of five days off. It does not provide additional days off for employees that are already entitled to at least 5 paid leave days. Our members are all entitled to more than five days off each calendar year.
28. If residents do not feel comfortable seeing a patient without appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”) can they refuse to see the patient?
See answer to Question 1.
 

Contact Us

National Office:
10-27 46th Avenue, Suite 300-2
Long Island City, NY 11101
Phone: (212) 356-8100
Email: info@cirseiu.org

Regional Offices

Benefits Office

Phone: (212) 356-8180
Email: benefits@cirseiu.org

Our Union

The Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU, a local of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), represents more than 17,000 interns, residents, and fellows in California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Washington, D.C.

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