Nothing New Here

Some stories, like this one, are tricky.  From every level of government to every single media outlet (no exceptions), to talk shows and social media, AND from medicine in general, we live in a time of unparalleled emotional manipulation, which I find generally contemptible.  This is why I don’t want to rush in and embrace the easy answer here, so if you see another angle, please (really) share it with us.

An employee in Washington state was fired for publicly criticizing his employer, which in most circumstances will get you fired.  And in most circumstances, being a fierce capitalist, I side with the business owner.  But the wrinkle here is that the employee was not actually fired by the employer, but not allowed to work by the vendor for the customer which was functioning as a de facto employer.  Of course, this meant a hospital corporation – the criticized party – no longer allowed a contracted physician to work in their facility, and had him removed from the roster by the contracting firm.  This happens all the time in ER and hospitalist work, and wouldn’t be ordinarily noteworthy.  But suppose the public criticism from the emergency physician in question was directed at the hospital over legitimate safety concerns, during a time of national angst over a major virus? 

Dr. Ming Lin was prevented from further working in the emergency room at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, where he has worked for 17 years, but his actual employer,  “TeamHealth told The Associated Press in an email Saturday that it would try and find Lin a job somewhere else. The company insisted Lin had not been fired.”  The hospital said Lin had been fired, but could not comment because he is not their employee.  If this doesn’t stink as bad as the last “Ghostbusters” remake, then you should get your cribriform plate checked. 

Was Lin a bad clinician, suddenly, after 17 years?  Or was the hospital upset that he was publicly criticizing them over the hospital’s Covid-19 screening practices, and refused to remove his Facebook posts thereunto?  Lin was pushing for patients to be China-virus screened in the parking lot, rather than in crowded ER lobbies, which makes sense.  He also criticized PeaceHealth for not testing the staff, not getting quick test-turnarounds arranged, and not providing enough protective equipment (you can bet your paper shoe covers though, that hospital will be ready for its next JCHAO inspection). 

To me it this reads like Dr. Lin had some legitimate criticisms, which ran athwart PeaceHealth’s public relations image.  They are not the employer but the customer and leaned on the vendor which is also the employer.  This means that if Dr. Lin’s criticisms were valid – and I’m betting they were and still are – both the hospital and staffing company are as scummy and back-dealing as apparently every corporation in health care now is.    

As in any fun crisis, bad behavior has not abated, but on the contrary, accelerated.  Patients could not depend on their local hospital to do the right thing, and a physician could not count on his company to back him up.  This is where we were long before the current troubles, and this is where we will remain, struggling valiantly to provide the appearance of good care for all, and valuing compliant doctors.  

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Pat Conrad MD

Pat Conrad is a full-time rural ER doc on the Florida Gulf Coast. After serving as a carrier naval flight officer, he graduated from the University of Florida College of Medicine, and the Tallahassee Family Medicine residency program. His commentary has appeared in Medical Economics and at AuthenticMedicine.com . Conrad’s work stresses individual freedom and autonomy as the crucial foundation for medical excellence, is wary of all collective solutions, and recognizes that the vast majority of poisonous snakebites are concurrent with alcohol consumption. 

  2 comments for “Nothing New Here

  1. arf
    March 31, 2020 at 10:18 pm

    So much for the “hero doctors” you always hear from the virtue-signaling types. Some of the doctors in the Multicare system south of Seattle unionized. This sort of behavior is why doctors join unions.

  2. Rando
    March 31, 2020 at 11:47 am

    Once he made the comments publicly, his continuing to work in the same ER became an intolerable situation. My guess is TeamHealth is the outsourcing company that contracted with the hospital, and they’re trying to find a different spot for him. I think Lin’s criticisms of the hospital are likely well founded, but from a personnel standpoint I think it was handled appropriately.

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