Hospitals are threatening to fire health-care workers who publicise their working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic - and have in some cases followed through.
Ming Lin, an emergency room physician in Washington state, said he was told Friday he was out of a job because he’d given an interview to a newspaper about a Facebook post detailing what he believed to be inadequate protective equipment and testing. In Chicago, a nurse was fired after emailing colleagues that she wanted to wear a more protective mask while on duty. In New York, the NYU Langone Health system has warned employees they could be terminated if they talk to the media without authorisation.
"Hospitals are muzzling nurses and other health-care workers in an attempt to preserve their image," said Ruth Schubert, a spokesperson for the Washington State Nurses Association. "It is outrageous."
Hospitals have traditionally had strict media guidelines to protect patient privacy, urging staff to talk with journalists only through official public relations offices. But the pandemic has ushered in a new era, Schubert said.
Health-care workers "must have the ability to tell the public what is really going on inside the facilities where they are caring for Covid-19 patients," she said.
One reason is to prepare other nurses and doctors for the looming onslaught of cases and encourage donations of much-needed equipment, particularly the personal protective equipment or PPE that protects them from being infected and in turn infecting other patients as well as their families when they go home.
In China, one of the earliest alarms about the mysterious new illness was raised by a doctor in an online chatroom in late December. He was reprimanded and forced to sign a police statement that the post was illegal. He later contracted the disease from a patient and died.