Kern Resident Physicians, the Lowest Paid in California, Fight for a Living Wage


June 1, 2021
Press Contact: Tricia Piper-Bennett
P: (415) 914-5511 

Kern Resident Physicians, the Lowest Paid in California, Fight for a Living Wage
Kern Medical refuses to bargain in good faith with resident physicians  

Bakersfield, CA – Resident physicians are the backbone of Kern Medical, yet Kern’s residency program is the lowest paid in California. Many first-year Resident physicians make less than minimum wage even as they carry student loan debt averaging $250,000. Ahead of their contract’s March 2021 expiration, Kern Resident physicians, members of the Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU, submitted a request in January to extend their contract by one year and requested a cost of living adjustment of 5%. 

Hospital management wanted until March to respond. When over 25% of Kern’s Resident physicians gave public comment at the March 2021 Board of Governors meeting, Board Chair Russell Bigler responded that “salary should not be associated with respect.” Though he continued to say that “Residents and fellows [physicians] are highly regarded”, the hospital’s unwillingness to bargain in good faith tells another story. 

“After working through the pandemic, my colleagues and I are prioritizing contract benefits which focus on promoting Resident physician wellness and safety, furthering diversity and inclusion and providing Resident physicians with fair compensation,” said Dr. Tyler Wheeler, 2nd-year Psychiatry Resident physician.

Resident physicians have worked tirelessly, and at great risk to their personal health, over the last year to provide care to the Bakersfield community throughout an unprecedented pandemic. Since bargaining began in April 2021, the Kern administration has refused the Resident physicians’ full bargaining team participants at meetings. Though every member deserves a seat at the table, the hospital has limited participation to a core group of Resident physicians, even refusing substitutes in the event that team members take vacation or have scheduling conflicts.

“We signed up to serve our community, and we’re proud to do it. But we’re asking the hospital management to treat us with the respect we’ve earned. By not allowing full Resident physician participation at the bargaining table, our colleagues feel unvalued after a challenging and exhausting year,” said Dr. Angelina Prat, 2nd-year Obstetrics and Gynecology Resident physician. 

Resident physicians are currently in discussion with hospital management over an economic proposal and are scheduled to meet again on June 1st. As the lowest paid program in California, the hospital’s proposal risks deterring future doctors from training at Kern Medical without fair compensation. “Ultimately, it’s the people of Bakersfield and our patients who will suffer when Kern cannot recruit and retain the doctors it needs,” said Dr. Jennifer Frank, 2nd-year Obstetrics and Gynecology Resident Physician.

The Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) is the largest housestaff union in the United States. A local of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), representing over 18,000 resident physicians and fellows. Our members are dedicated to improving residency training and education, advancing patient care, and expanding healthcare access for our communities.