Dismissed COVID whistleblower: profit motive doesn’t work in healthcare

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Healthcare workers have long been afraid of advocating for the safety of patients and staff, but the pandemic has “only made this visible to the public and the media”.

So says Ming Lin, MD, the Washington state ambulance who was laid off in the early days of the pandemic for raising safety concerns.

Lin spoke during a session of the TakeEMBack Virtual Summit, a two-day meeting aimed at raising awareness of the increasing impact of large corporations on medical practice and the adverse effects it is having on doctors and medical staff.

“The atmosphere in which we work is becoming more and more corporate,” Lin said during his presentation. “Are the companies we work for different from Amazon or Microsoft, whose main goal is profit?”

In March 2020, Lin wrote a letter to the chief physician at his hospital, St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Washington, owned by PeaceHealth, and posted it on his Facebook page. He criticized coronavirus security procedures, particularly those related to testing, and criticized it for several days. He then lost his shifts in the hospital.

Lin and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) then sued PeaceHealth and TeamHealth, the hospital contractor who employed Lin and provided emergency medical services to the hospital.

Lin has been working in the hospital since 2003 and has been an emergency doctor for over 30 years. He said during the summit that corporate influence in medicine is increasingly being turned upside down in many ways.

The goal of hospitals is to control the medical staff assigned to approve doctor privileges for each hospital, Lin said.

“Medical staff can revoke a doctor’s privilege at any time,” he said. “Hospitals have been competing for the past two decades to control medical staff and deprive them of their independence. With medical staff as pawns, hospitals can manipulate doctors to do what they want.”

“If you keep working and want to pay off your half a million dollar student loan or your mortgage – or your yacht if you’re an orthopedic surgeon – you better listen to the medical staff,” Lin said. called.

Regarding social media, he noted that there is no US law prohibiting companies from monitoring employee contributions – even if they are made “from home, on your personal device, and in your own free time.”

“Healthcare whistleblowers in this country were approached by their supervisors in less than 48 hours after the release,” he said.

Lin also said he no longer sees the human resources (HR) departments of hospitals as advocates for the employees. He cited surveys that showed that employees believed the HR department was a resource for the employer, not the employee, and that employees would not report discrimination to the HR department on retaliatory concerns.

“Businesses should generate maximum profit,” he said. “It’s in their nature. Unfortunately, it has ramifications. It’s a bit like throwing a raccoon into a chicken coop. If we silence health workers, the outcome would be even more disastrous.”

Robert McNamara, MD, Chair of Emergency Medicine at Temple University and co-founder of TakeEMBack, said during a news conference that Lin’s story highlights issues with the lack of due process in employment contracts.

“Doctors risk their livelihoods to speak up on quality of care issues,” McNamara said. “Denial of due process makes it possible. Emergency doctors can be discharged on short notice without contesting claims,” ​​because recruitment agencies run the risk of losing their contracts if they mess up hospital administration.

Lisa Moreno, MD, president of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM), said doctors have the right to due process.

“We need the right to know why we were fired. We have to face our accuser in this company and we need a jury of our colleagues, other doctors … to hear how we defend ourselves, ”she said.

“Companies don’t want to spend any money on it,” Moreno continued. “You routinely say to doctors, ‘If you want to work for us, you have to give up your right to due process.'”

She added that the AAEM “has a long list of doctors who, for decades, have been fired just for campaigning for patient safety, or taking in too many homeless people, or firing too many people with good insurance than that Hospital wanted. ” keep.”

“This is not how medicine should be practiced,” she said.

Moreno noted that last year former MP Roger Marshall, MD (R-Kan.) Tabled a bill, the Emergency Room Hero and Patient Safety Act, in the House of Representatives to address this lack of due process. It aims to require hospitals that employ or contract emergency doctors to maintain proper litigation protection before taking any action related to employment. Without a fair hearing and review process, hospitals would not be able to stop or limit the professional activity or staff privileges of doctors.

The TakeEMBack summit was organized by Chicago ambulance doctor Mitchell Li, MD, and other emergency medical technicians who believe corporate influence in medicine has reached a boiling point where both patient safety and physician autonomy are seriously threatened. While TakeEMBack concentrates on emergency medicine, the group also pushes for the call for “take medicine back” across disciplines.

  • Kristina Fiore heads MedPage’s Enterprise & Investigative Reporting team. She has been a medical journalist for more than a decade, and her work has been recognized by Barlett & Steele, AHCJ, SABEW, and others. Send story tips to [email protected] follow



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