Washington ER physician removed from post after criticizing hospital's coronavirus response

An emergency room physician at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Wash., was removed from his position after denouncing the hospital's protections against the novel coronavirus, The Seattle Times reports.

Ming Lin, MD, who has worked in the St. Joseph emergency room for 17 years, publicly claimed the hospital lacked protective measures against the virus and advocated for greater protections for staff. He told the newspaper he was notified on March 27 that his shift was covered and that he was removed from his position. He said the hospital also told him he would be contacted by his employer, TeamHealth, which contracts with the hospital's emergency department. TeamHealth tweeted March 28 that it had not fired Dr. Lin and would work to find him a position at a different hospital.

In a statement to Becker's Hospital Review, PeaceHealth Northwest network Chief Executive Charles Prosper defended the hospital's protections.

"Our front-line caregiver personal protective equipment safety protocols and guidelines are in line with CDC's recommendations, and because we started preparing months ago to build our PPE supply inventories and develop contingency plans, today we have enough supplies … to handle our COVID-19 patient volume," he said. "We take our responsibility to our patients, our community and our caregivers with the utmost seriousness, and we work tirelessly to ensure our standards and results reflect our deeply held commitment."

Dr. Lin told the Times his employment was threatened after he accused PeaceHealth to reporters and on his Facebook account of a lack of urgency to protect employees, including what he called a refusal to screen all patients outside the hospital, rather than in the ER. He said he did not take down social media posts about the hospital after being asked to do so. Worth Everett, MD, facility medical director of the hospital's emergency department, acknowledged in his own statement that while the hospital does not currently have a shortage of supplies and personal protective equipment, shortages are possible in the future. He said the hospital has worked on conserving strategies in anticipation of such a time.  

Additionally, the hospital recently announced measures such as temperature screening of staff entering the building, plans to enhance separation between infected patients and staff, and the availability of tents for necessary outside screening, according to the Times.

Dr. Lin contends more needs to be done. However, he wrote on Facebook March 29 that "Peacehealth St Joseph Hospital has many staff and colleagues who have my respect and are doing their best," and that he has "no animosity toward Peacehealth St Joseph as I enter my next chapter in my life."

Read the full Times report here.




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