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Doctor who criticized hospital's measures against coronavirus is fired

A Washington state emergency room doctor who spoke out about what he called a lack of protective measures being implemented against the coronavirus at his hospital has been fired.

Dr. Ming Lin wrote in a Facebook post on Friday that he was terminated from his job at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Wash.

The firing of the 17-year hospital veteran comes after he made public pleas on social media and through the news media for his employer to acquire more safety equipment to protect staff during the COVID-19 outbreak, which has hit Washington especially hard.

Lin, who worked in a trauma center near the World Trade Center in New York City during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, told The Seattle Times that he was preparing for work Friday when he got a message that he didn't need to come in because his shift was covered. 

When he called his supervisor, he was reportedly told, "You've been terminated."

Lin said he was told he would be contacted by human resources staff from his employer, TeamHealth. The national firm based out of Tennessee that contracts with PeaceHealth's emergency department.

"I'll be OK," he told the outlet. "It's a blow to my ego more than anything."

A spokesperson for PeaceHealth St. Joseph confirmed to The Seattle Times that Lin had been terminated by the hospital but declined to provide comment.

In a statement to The Hill, a TeamHealth spokesperson said Lin has not been terminated by the contractor and that the company "is committed to engaging with him to try to find a path forward." 

"Now more than ever, we need every available doctor, and we will work with Dr. Lin to find the right location for him," the spokesperson said. 

Lin had been regularly posting to his Facebook page about the conditions in the hospital, accusing PeaceHealth of failing to quickly protect workers.

He told The Seattle Times that his supervisors threatened to fire him earlier this month after he spoke with reporters, but the doctor refused to take his social media posts down when asked.

Lin alleged that PeaceHealth St. Joseph refused to screen all patients outside the hospital, bringing potential COVID-19 patients into the emergency room waiting area, which is frequently crowded.

Two emergency department workers told the newspaper that they shared Lin's concerns about the possible spread of the virus.

In a YouTube video filmed shortly before his firing, Lin said nurses triaging potential COVID-19 patients exhibiting cough or fever weren't provided masks.

"I'm not sure what St. Joe's motive is. I'm not going to comment whether this is some financial issue or whatever it is," Lin said in the video. "I think when a hospital to me is not just responsible for the patients there, but it needs to stand out in the community as a leader to protect the unwanted, to protect the homeless, to protect the elderly."

Washington state was the initial U.S. epicenter for coronavirus. As of Friday night, there were 3,700 COVID-19 cases confirmed by the Washington State Health Department, with 175 deaths.

Updated at 11:35 am 

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