KMC residency docs demand higher pay

KMC residency docs demand higher pay »Play Video
Doctors in the residency programs at Kern Medical Center demand a raise Tuesday, June 4, 2013, in Bakersfield, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX photo/Lou Enriquez)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Doctors usually rank high when it comes to pay. But, in Kern County, some physicians get paid the same as some fast-food workers.

At Kern Medical Center Tuesday, doctors in the residency programs joined to demand a raise.

According to the doctors' union, Kern County resident doctors land at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to salary. They earn around $40,000 for 80-hour work weeks, compared to other residency programs across the nation, which pay about $45,000.

KMC is the only trauma center between Los Angeles and Fresno. Resident physicians say it has been five years since the last raise. The group has been asking for a higher salary but say Kern County officials have canceled the last three negotiation meetings.

"The main purpose of having residency programs in Kern County is to recruit physicians to Kern County. They come here. They do their residency. They have families. They stay. They open up primary care physician offices," said Dr. Sarah Assem, a first-year residency doctor.

But, with the lowest salary in the county, recruiting can be a problem. Many new doctors in training don't want to come to Kern County.

"The problem with being the lowest paid residents across the county is if they have a choice to go somewhere else, if money's tight for them, they're not going to be able to come here," said Dr. Kevin Bromage, a first-year resident physician. "So, even though we're an excellent residency program in California, the quality doctors aren't coming here, and they're not going to stay here."

Kern County Administrative Office staff couldn't go on camera for an interview but did send over a statement:

"The County certainly values the important work being done by the resident physicians in training at Kern Medical Center. We recognize the need to compensate KMC residents fairly for their critical contributions to the health of the community. County negotiators continue to work with representatives of KMC residents toward an agreement."