As the union representing 900 nurses at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, the Washington State Nurses Association is appalled by the hospital administration’s response to the very real concerns being raised by frontline caregivers at the hospital.
Dr. Ming Lin, a respected, highly-experienced emergency room physician, was fired after he publicly criticized his hospital's coronavirus response. Only days before his termination, Dr. Lin shared in the Seattle Times his concerns that the failure to adopt needed protective measures placed caregivers and patients at risk. At a time when our state faces a critical shortage of frontline caregivers – as we are appealing for volunteers and trying to reactivate retired nurses and doctors and pressing nursing students into service – it is outrageous that hospital management could retaliate against health care professionals for speaking the truth.
Dr. Lin bravely spoke out for the safety of hospital staff, patients and the public. He has been the voice for many nurses and other health care workers who are afraid to speak up out of the very real fear that they could be disciplined or fired. We salute his courage, and we demand that he be reinstated so he can continue his life-saving work.
Nurses and other health care workers are being muzzled in an attempt by hospitals to preserve their image. While hospitals give media tours and make statements touting their preparation for and response to the COVID-19 crisis, those on the frontlines are being silenced.
Our members on the frontlines at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham report that they have run out of proper gowns to care for suspected and positive COVID-19 patients, are being directed to re-use and share Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) without proper cleaning per manufacturer guidelines, are being given one surgical mask per day and being told to keep it in a paper bag between patients, and other unsafe measures. WSNA filed a complaint with the Washington state Department of Labor and Industries Division of Occupational Safety and Health over what we believe is the hospital’s failure to provide a safe work environment.
A basic principle of safety, subscribed to by hospitals and health systems across the nation is, “If you see something, say something.” This concept is foundational to providing safe patient care.
No health care worker should face being disciplined or fired for speaking the truth. Doctors, nurses and other health care workers on the frontlines know firsthand what patients need and where our health care system is falling short in its response to COVID-19.
We salute Dr. Lin for his bravery in speaking out in the face of intimidation and his support for all of the staff at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center and elsewhere who are working under extraordinarily difficult circumstances to take care of patients in the face of this worldwide pandemic.