An experienced emergency care doctor in Washington state believes he was fired from St. Joseph Hospital after speaking out about the lack of measures taken to protect staff from the coronavirus. Dr. Ming Lin felt that the hospital was not doing enough to protect doctors and nurses, even given the national shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). According to a report The Bellingham Herald, the hospital not only disputes his claim, but that he was fired at all.
Dr. Lin is a veteran of emergency department care, and had worked at St. Joseph Hospital for 17 years. Earlier this month, Lin reportedly posted an open letter to PeaceHealth, the company that operates St. Joseph, asking for more safety equipment for staff. Lin told reporter that he was fired on Friday as he prepared for his shift. He believed this was retaliation for his letter.
The story got confusing, as a hospital spokesperson declined to comment on Lin's employment status, directing reporters to TeamHealth — a national physician services firm that contracts with PeaceHealth to provide doctors like Lin. A TeamHealth spokesperson said that Dr. Lin had not been terminated.
"Dr. Lin has not been terminated by TeamHealth and we are committed to engaging with him to try to find a path forward," they said. "Now more than ever, we need every available doctor, and we will work with Dr. Lin to find the right location for him."
Likewise, a PeaceHealth official declined to comment on Lin altogether, instead giving a more general statement about how PeaceHealth hospitals are trying to weather the coronavirus pandemic.
"From that standpoint, we've asked them to provide the services that we need just like they have every day," said Charles Prosper, the company's chief executive on Saturday.
Despite all of this, Lin told the Associated Press that he had been fired in no uncertain terms, and that he thinks PeaceHealth might offer him work at a different hospital in its network. He said that he is not interested.
Lin has continued to speak out in interviews and on social media. According to the Herald, he was an ER doctor working in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, and he related his experiences then to what he is seeing now.
"I feel so overwhelmed," Lin said. "We're like a high school basketball team that's about to play an NBA team. The storm is coming, and I don't feel that we're prepared."
For the latest information on the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the CDC's website.