US Health care systems have warned emergency room doctors and nurses that if they speak out about working conditions inside a hospital, they will be fired, reported Bloomberg.
Ming Lin, an emergency room physician in Washington state, lost his job last week after he spoke to a local media outlet about the lack of protective gear for staff at Puget Sound area hospitals.
Hospital staff at the NYU Langone Health system were recently warned that if they spoke to the media without authorization, they would be terminated.
“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.”
With confirmed virus cases over 163,000 and 3,170 deaths, hospital systems across the country are seeing a massive influx of patients that is straining the system.
Doctors and nurses “must have the ability to tell the public what is really going on inside the facilities where they are caring for Covid-19 patients,” Schubert said.
As we noted in January, a hospital doctor in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of COVID-19, tried to inform the world about a fast-spreading disease. However, he was quickly silenced by the Chinese government, and since, more than 800,000 people around the globe have been infected, with 39,000 deaths.
One reason that nurses and doctors must be informative about evolving conditions inside hospitals is that public donations of medical equipment or gear could help out a local facility.
“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. Hospitals are likely 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.”
NYU Langone Health employees received notification last week that if they spoke with media, they would be “subject to disciplinary action, including termination.”
New York’s Montefiore Health System requires doctors and nurses to get permission from superiors before speaking to the media.
“Associates are not authorized to interact with reporters or speak on behalf of the institution in any capacity, without pre-approval,” according to the policy, which was seen by Bloomberg News.
Lauri Mazurkiewicz, a Chicago nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, was fired after she told the hospital staff to wear more protective equipment:
“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,” Mazurkiewicz said.
Doctors and nurses have also tweeted their frustrations with hospital systems – this has also led to some systems tightening the noose on what employees can and cannot say on social media:
My babies are too young to read this now. And they’d barely recognize me in my gear. But if they lose me to COVID I want them to know Mommy tried really hard to do her job. #GetMePPE #NYC pic.twitter.com/OMew5G7mjK
— Cornelia Griggs (@CorneliaLG) March 29, 2020
Nisha Mehta, a radiologist from Charlotte, North Carolina, runs several Facebook groups for physicians. She says members in her groups have reached out to her and want their stories told about working conditions:
“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,” Mehta said.
America’s hospital system could be cracking, like what happened in China and Italy. If everything were fine, doctors and nurses wouldn’t be flooding media outlets and social media platforms, warning the public about hospital conditions and or about how deadly the virus is.