October 6, 2022

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Coronavirus: US doctors warned they will be fired if they complain to media about lack of resources

reports examples of disciplinary action taken against healthcare workers across the US, most shockingly including the firing of Dr Ming Lin, an emergency room physician in Washington state.

At a time when needs are greatest and hospitals are overstretched, it seems counterintuitive to potentially worsen the problem through dismissals.

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Also cited by Bloomberg are a nurse in Chicago who was fired after emailing colleagues that she wanted to wear more protective equipment while on duty; and a warning from NYU Langone Health system in New York that employees that talk to the media would be terminated.

Dr Lin spoke with The Seattle Times to share his concerns that the failure to adopt needed protec­tive measures placed caregivers and patients at risk and was told on Friday that he no longer had a job.

The Washington State Nurses Association released a statement decrying the decision: “At a time when our state faces a critical shortage of front­line caregivers – as we are appealing for volun­teers and trying to reacti­vate retired nurses and doctors and pressing nursing students into service – it is outra­geous that hospital manage­ment could retal­iate against health care profes­sionals for speaking the truth.”

“Nurses and other health care workers are being muzzled in an attempt by hospi­tals to preserve their image … those on the front­lines are being silenced.”

The Chicago nurse, Lauri Mazurkiewicz, urged colleagues to wear more personal protective equipment rather than a simple mask and was fired by Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Ms Mazurkiewicz has asthma and cares for her father who has a respiratory disease. She has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit.

NYU Langone Health employees were told on Friday that anyone who talked to the media without authorisation would be “subject to disciplinary action, including termination.”

Jim Mandler, a spokesman for NYU Langone Health, insists that “it is in the best interest of our staff and the institution that only those with the most updated information are permitted to address these issues with the media.”

New York’s Montefiore Health System has a similar policy and reminded staff on 17 March that all media requests must be vetted by the public relations department.

Not all hospitals are taking this position, with New York’s Mount Sinai actively scheduling interviews between staff and the media. The University of California San Francisco Medical Centre has also encouraged medical workers to talk to the media.

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