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.

If you are contacted by the media or if you have any questions or concerns, please be sure to contact your WSNA Nurse Repre­sen­ta­tive Hanna Welander at hwelander@wsna.org.