ER doctor who criticized lack of protective gear says he was fired

This article is more than 1 month old

Ming Lin says he was ‘terminated’ from job at Washington state hospital but staffing firm TeamHealth denies that was the case

In a Facebook post, Ming Lin wrote that nurses were not given enough gowns to protect themselves and there was no area for staff to ‘decontaminate’.
In a Facebook post, Ming Lin wrote that nurses were not given enough gowns to protect themselves and there was no area for staff to ‘decontaminate’. Photograph: AP

An emergency room doctor who spoke out about the lack of coronavirus safety protections in place at his workplace in Bellingham, Washington, about 90 miles north of Seattle, said he was fired on Friday.

Dr Ming Lin, an emergency physician at PeaceHealth St Joseph Medical Center, repeatedly posted on his Facebook page about not having enough protective equipment, long delays in receiving coronavirus test results, and risky virus screening practices in which patients were evaluated inside the waiting room.

Dr Lin, a physician for about 30 years, often began posts with “SHAME ON PEACEHEALTH”. He received dozens of supportive responses.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, he wrote that nurses were not given enough gowns to protect themselves and there was no area for staff to “decontaminate”. There was “no way for us to prevent us from becoming the vector for our family and our community,” he wrote.

On Friday evening, Dr Lin wrote on his Facebook page that he had been “terminated from PeaceHealth” by TeamHealth, a national medical staffing company.

A TeamHealth spokesperson told the Guardian Dr Lin had not been terminated, but the company would be helping him find a new location to work from.

“Now more than ever, we need every available doctor, and we will work with Dr Lin to find the right location for him,” the spokesperson said in an email.

Dr Lin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Peacehealth, a not-for-profit Catholic health system that includes 10 medical centers and 1,100 providers across Washington, Oregon and Alaska, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As of Friday afternoon, Washington state had reported 3,723 cases of coronavirus, including 175 deaths. Whatcom county, which includes Bellingham, had seen 92 cases and four deaths.

Recently, Governor Jay Inslee ordered a halt to elective surgeries and dental services.

In a video posted on Youtube on Friday, Dr Lin reiterated his criticism and said the hospital should move triage to the front of the facility, possibly in a tent, so patients who may have coronavirus can be kept separate. He also said all staff members and patients should wear a mask in the hospital.

“This disease is so difficult to mask and to discover and a lot of time unfortunately you find out too late that they have Covid-19,” he said.

A statement posted on the PeaceHealth website on Monday said all patients, visitors and caregivers would have their temperature checked and anyone with a temperature of 100.4F or above would not be able to come into the hospital. It has barred most visitors from entering its hospitals.

The Bellingham Herald, a local newspaper, reported on Wednesday that several PeaceHealth staff members, including at St Joseph hospital, had been diagnosed with coronavirus. In the article, a hospital official said no members of the staff were exposed through their work, and they continue to have “adequate” staffing and supplies.