Palisades Docs Fight for Equity


November 21, 2017

Rachel Van Raan-Welch

Palisades Docs Fight for Equity

North Bergen, NJ – More than two years after voting overwhelmingly to unionize, the residents at Palisades Medical Center are still working without their first union contract even as the hospital’s negotiators

“We’ve sat across the table from Palisades’ representatives again and again and seen almost no movement in our efforts,” said Dr. Soonaj Poonawala. “We’ve shown up ready to negotiate honestly and fairly and have had sessions canceled last minute, or been told an hour ahead of time that the hospital’s negotiators were unprepared with any new proposals. We have made compromises on our end, and still Palisades won’t meet us halfway.”

Gathered outside of Palisades Medical Center, members of the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR/SEIU Healthcare) called on the hospital leadership to respect their contributions to patient care and come to the bargaining table with real salary proposals.

“We have been at the table with the leaders of Palisades for years – literally years – to try to get our very first increase in our salaries since the initiation of the residency program,” said Dr. Frank Portugal.  “We were told from upper level administration that the increase in salary have not occurred due to our participation in the union.”

Added Dr. Poonawala, “Not only does this make no sense, it also goes against the basic rights of union members.”

CIR Regional Vice President for New Jersey Dr. Joanelle Bailey questioned how the profitable hospital system can reject salary increases for the one hundred residents and fellows whose work alongside attending physicians, nurses, and other staff is chiefly responsible for the hospital’s profit.

Palisades receives  $162,916 per resident in Graduate Medical Education funding through Medicare, while the residents at Palisades make on average about 17% less than the New Jersey average, and the hospital’s CEO, Dr. Anthony Passannante, has refused to make any real movements to bring them in line with other resident physicians in the area.

The residents have been joined in their efforts by local elected leaders.

“This impasse must end,” said Assemblyman Raj Mukherj (33rd Legislative District, Hudson County) in a statement.“Respectfully, I urge management to take all steps necessary to reach a collective bargaining agreement with their resident physicians on terms that are fair and comparable. Their residents – and the patients they serve – deserve nothing less.”

Dr. Portugal summed up the physicians’ frustration: “Each one of us has a story about how much we are all struggling. We work hard to provide the best possible care for our patients, and a gesture of respect and understanding on the part of Palisades for the struggles that we actually face will help us know that they support what we do in the fight for each person that walks through those hospital doors. ”


Founded in 1957, the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR/SEIU Healthcare) is the oldest and largest housestaff union in the U.S., representing more than 15,000 physicians in public and private teaching hospitals across the country. CIR empowers resident physicians to have a voice in their employment and training and to be advocates for their patients.