Fired Washington ER physician sues PeaceHealth, TeamHealth; seeks reinstatement

An emergency room physician who was fired after criticizing his hospital's coronavirus response is suing Vancouver, Wash.-based PeaceHealth, its COO Richard DeCarlo and national medical staffing firm TeamHealth.

The ACLU of Washington filed the lawsuit May 28 in Whatcom County Superior Court on behalf of Ming Lin, MD, who contracted with TeamHealth in 2002 to work at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Wash. Dr. Lin was removed from his position in March after he publicly claimed in the press and on social media that the hospital did not quickly screen visitors, provide sufficient protective equipment and adequately test staff. 

The lawsuit claims breach of contract and that Dr. Lin was wrongfully terminated in retaliation for expressing his concerns about health and safety. It also claims the defendants publicly made false statements about him and intentionally caused him emotional distress.

"By firing a doctor for pointing out its shortcomings, particularly at a time when every doctor is urgently needed, PeaceHealth prioritized its own reputation over the health and well-being of the communities it is supposed to serve," Jamal Whitehead, ACLU of Washington cooperating attorney at Schroeter Goldmark and Bender, said in a news release.

PeaceHealth spokesperson Bev Mayhew in a statement provided to Becker's Hospital Review emphasized that PeaceHealth asked TeamHealth to remove Dr. Lin from the emergency department schedule "because he chose to not use designated safety reporting channels, and his actions were disruptive, compromised collaboration in the midst of a crisis and contributed to the creation of fear and anxiety among staff and the community."

The lawsuit seeks reinstatement, damages for lost compensation and benefits and damages for emotional distress.

TeamHealth in a statement provided to Becker's Hospital Review upheld that the staffing company did not terminate Dr. Lin and said Dr. Lin is still a paid TeamHealth physician. The company said it offered to place the physician in another contracted hospital. 

Read the full lawsuit here

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