Health-care workers are being told they will get fired if they speak out about the horrible conditions they work in during the COVID-19 pandemic. And some doctors were fired.
Ming Lin, an emergency room physician in Washington State, was fired because he had published a Facebook post and then did an interview for a newspaper where he told the details of the inadequate testing and protective equipment. Moreover, a nurse in Chicago was also fired after emailing colleagues that she needed to wear a mask that was more protective during her work hours.
“Hospitals are muzzling nurses and other health-care workers in an attempt to preserve their image,” said Ruth Schubert, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Nurses Association. “It is outrageous.”
And in China, when the illness emerged, one doctor has raised the alarm of the mysterious new virus in late December and he was quickly warned and was forced to sign a police statement saying the post was invalid. Later, he caught the virus from a patient and died.
“It is good and appropriate for health-care workers to be able to express their own fears and concerns, especially when expressing that might get them better protection,” said Glenn Cohen, faculty director of Harvard Law School’s bioethics center. It’s likely hospitals are trying to limit reputational damage because “when health-care workers say they are not being protected, the public gets very upset at the hospital system.”
Doctors should be independent. And many doctors and nurses have spoken about the lack of protective gear and respirators. Some of them have gone viral and were shared with the hashtag #GetMePPE.
Employees from NYU Langone Health have received a warning from Kathy Lewis, executive vice president of communications, saying that anyone who spoke to the media without authorization would be “subject to disciplinary action, including termination.”
Lauri Mazurkiewicz, the Chicago nurse who got fired by Northwestern Memorial Hospital after saying that they should wear more protective equipment, has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit. “A lot of hospitals are lying to their workers and saying that simple masks are sufficient and nurses are getting sick and they are dying,” she said.
Lauri has asthma and she also cares for the health of her father who has a respiratory disease. He is 75 years old and is at risk of dying from the virus. “I didn’t want to get infected because I’m not wearing the proper mask and then spread it to my patients and my family,” she said.
Photo by: MUNICIPALIDAD METROPOLITANA DE LIMA
Luckily, there are medical centers that encourage workers to talk to reporters. Nisha Mehta is a radiologist from Charlotte, North Carolina, and she runs two Facebook groups for physicians with approximately 70.000 members to get their storied into the public.
“I’m hearing widespread stories from physicians across the country and they are all saying: ‘We have these stories that we think are important to get out, but we are being told by our hospital systems that we are not allowed to speak to the press, and if we do so there will be extreme consequences,” she said.
“The public needs to hear these stories and other physicians need to hear them to be warned against what’s coming,” Mehta said. “It’s so important that everyone understands how bad this is going to get.”