Hospitals across the country are threatening to fire healthcare workers who publicize their working conditions and lack of equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.
In some cases, they’ve already followed through. Bloomberg reports an emergency room physician in Washington was told Friday he’d been fired after giving an interview about a Facebook post claiming inadequate protective equipment and testing.
Additionally, the NYU Langone Health system has told all employees they could be terminated if they talk to the media without prior authorization.
“Hospitals are muzzling nurses and other healthcare workers in an attempt to preserve their image,” said Ruth Schubert, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Nurses Association told Bloomberg. “It is outrageous.
Hospitals typically have strict media guidelines in order to protect the privacy of patients. Most urge staff to go through the hospital’s public relations staff. However, many feel the coronavirus outbreak is an unprecedented event and should be treated as such.
Schubert believes those on the frontlines “must have the ability to tell the public what is really going on inside the facilities where they are caring for COVID-19 patients.”
Many believe the spread of information will assist doctors and nurses to know what to expect and to help prepare for the potential onslaught of patients.
“It is good and appropriate for healthcare workers to be able to express their own fears and concerns, especially when expressing that might get them better protection,” Glenn Cohen, faculty director of Harvard Law School’s bioethics center told Bloomberg. It’s likely hospitals are trying to avoid being labeled as a bad hospital because “when healthcare workers say they are not being protected, the public gets very upset at the hospital system.”
Additionally, healthcare workers are some of the most at risk of contracting the disease. Business Insider reported earlier this month more than 3,400 healthcare workers in China caught the virus and at least 13 have died as a result.
President Trump said last week he believes hospitals are short of medical supplies because medical personnel is stealing them. In New York City, the virus is now spreading to the law enforcement ranks.