BELLINGHAM — The ACLU of Washington filed suit in late May on behalf of an emergency room doctor who publicly criticized the coronavirus preparations at his hospital in Bellingham.
Dr. Ming Lin, a physician with over 30 years of emergency room experience, was fired in March after exposing inadequate COVID-19-related safety procedures at St. Joseph’s Medical Center. St. Joseph’s is owned by PeaceHealth, a nonprofit, religiously-affiliated health care system based in Vancouver.
On Facebook and in media interviews, Lin repeatedly criticized what he saw as a sluggish response to the threat by the hospital’s administration. Lin insisted that the hospital was slow to screen visitors, negligent in not testing staff, wrong to rely on a company that was taking 10 days to process COVID-19 test results, and derelict in obtaining protective equipment for staff.
After his social media posts, the medical center began to change procedures to address the concerns raised by Lin. He was removed from the emergency room schedule shortly thereafter.
“By firing a doctor for pointing out its shortcomings, particularly at a time when every doctor is urgently needed, PeaceHealth prioritized its own reputation over the health and well-being of the communities it is supposed to serve,” said Jamal Whitehead, ACLU-WA cooperating attorney at Schroeter Goldmark & Bender. “When a hospital cares more about public relations than its patients and staff, who can the community trust?”
Lin said his criticism of the hospital was motivated in part by what he learned as an ER doctor at a hospital near the World Trade Center on 9/11. He said he worked at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan, and the facility’s steady and competent response that day was due to the training and experience it had undertaken after being overwhelmed in the aftermath of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.