U.S. hospitals are reportedly silencing healthcare employees who publicize their concerns about their working conditions amid the coronavirus outbreak by threatening to fire them.
“Hospitals are muzzling nurses and other healthcare workers in an attempt to preserve their image,” Ruth Schubert, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Nurses Association, told Bloomberg. “It is outrageous.”
In some cases, the hospitals have followed through on their threats to fire healthcare workers for talking to the media and publicly complaining about the lack of gear in other ways, Bloomberg noted, adding:
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 authorization.
This week, a nurse on the front lines in Chicago quit her job after she was told by management that she could not wear a protective mask she purchased on her own while caring for patients suffering from the coronavirus illness (COVID-19).
After quitting her job, she indicated via Instagram that the health facility was short on supplies and did not have enough masks to give nurses treating coronavirus patients, forcing them to reuse the limited number they have.
So she brought her mask but was not allowed to wear it. When she insisted on wearing it, management did not budge, so the nurse quit.
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I chose today… ⠀ & my family members who have pre-existing conditions that wouldn’t get a ventilator if they contracted #COVID19 from me ⠀ I had a different idea in mind when I got to my #ICU this morning; I expected to see ALL OF OUR #NURSES & STAFF wearing #N95 masks but … ⠀ Each ICU room had ‘make-shift’ ante-rooms attached to them created with plastic tarp & massive amounts of tape.. ⠀ A charge Nurse was passing out single N95 masks to nurses with a brown paper bag for them to store their mask in which was to be in inside their plastic ante-rooms & to – – … ⠀ I asked “well what if there’s possible contamination to that N95 mask..? What about my safety” ⠀ My manager told me “well our staff safety is our main priority right now … if we get enough masks, we may consider having staff wear surgical masks in the weeks to come..” ⠀ I replied, “But it’s Airborne… those surgical masks won’t protect us ..” ⠀ My manager then tells me “ we’ve kept up with the CDC & it is only when the COVID patient has any aerosol type treatments like a ventilator, nasal cannula, nebulizer etc that’s it’s airborne..otherwise it’s droplet ..” ⠀ I replied “& 90% of our patients are intubated, paralyzed, & positive for COVID.. people not even in the hospital environment are spreading it .. we have to assume everyone is infected..especially in the hospital environment, & ” ⠀ I then told her of nurses wearing a surgical droplet masks on their units & now intubated & fighting for their lives … ⠀ Tears were streaming down my face & fog in my glasses at this point.. ⠀ I thought to myself.. , ..? ⠀ I asked one last time pleading with tears in my eyes.. ⠀ “Can I please just wear … I understand we have a shortage but I have my OWN ” ⠀ My manager told me that they couldn’t allow me to wear it. ⠀ So I gave report, & left. ⠀ America is NOT prepared & Nurses are NOT safe. Plz DM me any telehealth jobs.
Meanwhile, places in New York, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, are facing coronavirus staffing shortages, prompting Andrew Cuomo to plead for out-of-state healthcare workers to come to his state and help.
Healthcare employees “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 from the Washington State Nurses Association said.
Referring to why healthcare employees must be allowed to speak out. Bloomberg pointed out:
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.
Schubert acknowledged that medical centers have traditionally enforced strict media rules to protect the privacy of patients, urging staff to only talk with reporters through official public relations officers.
Nevertheless, she noted, the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic has ushered in a new era where the public is relying on healthcare employees to find out what is going on inside hospitals.
During the early stages of the epidemic that originated in China and turned into a global pandemic, communist Chinese officials hid the extent of the viral outbreak, muzzling and jailing whistleblowers and critics in a move that allowed the disease to gain a firm foothold across the world.