An emergency-medicine doctor in Arizona said he was fired from his position at Yuma Regional Medical Center over posts he made on social media about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Cleavon Gilman, an Iraq War veteran, said he was told not to return to his job after tweeting about Arizona running low on available ICU beds.
He told Business Insider doctors everywhere are afraid to speak out about their experiences during the pandemic for fear of retribution, and that healthcare workers generally need more protections.
Representatives for Gilman said Sunday night that he has received an outpouring of support after the news of his firing broke. They also said that if all goes to plan, he will be back to work in the ER this week.
An emergency-medicine doctor in Arizona is set to return back to work this week after he was fired last month over posts he made on social media about the COVID-19 pandemic.
In viral tweets from November 22, Dr. Cleavon Gilman wrote that, when he arrived at Yuma Regional Medical Center to work that day, he learned there were no available ICU beds left in Arizona. He also tagged Gov. Doug Ducey in the thread and asked, “what are you going to do?”
Gilman told Business Insider that the next day he was asked not to return to the hospital and that the staffing agency he works for told him it was due to his tweets.
“It’s just like a slap in the face,” he said. “America needs ER doctors, and here you have a champion for the people who is being side-lined when his services are needed on the front lines.”
Gilman, an Iraq War veteran, has been a very vocal figure throughout the pandemic. He has been featured in major news publications, including Business Insider, speaking about the experience of healthcare workers during this time.
After working in New York City during the initial COVID-19 surge last spring, he moved to Yuma, Arizona in the summer to work at the only hospital in the area. He said after he was dismissed, he never heard directly from anyone at the hospital about the decision.
“It’s an insult when you move your whole family to a place,” he said, “and you get a call one day that you can’t return back to work.”
Yuma Regional Medical Center did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
After AZ Central broke the news of Gilman’s firing, the hospital released a statement that said there was a “misunderstanding,” and that Gilman, who has not been to work since November 22, was scheduled to work that weekend. However Gilman said that was “news to me.”
Representatives for Gilman told Business Insider Sunday night that he has since recieved an outpouring of support from his colleagues and his community. They also said that if all goes according to plan, Gilman will be back working in the ER this week.
“As you can imagine, he is thrilled to have an opportunity to go back to where he is most needed at this time,” they said.
Gilman said his original tweets were not about the hospital, but about the surge in Arizona and what he describes as the war-like experiences frontline workers are currently facing amid the pandemic. He said his goal was to prompt change.
“My whole point is to target policy. We need to mandate masks, close indoor dining,” he said. “We need to take a hardline approach because cases are going up everyday in Arizona and the hospitals are at capacity.”
He also said the general public deserves to hear the truth directly from healthcare workers.
But doctors across the country are afraid to speak out about their experiences with COVID-19, Gilman said. He said many are being suppressed by their hospitals and are being silenced out of fear of retribution.
“We need to be protected as healthcare providers,” he said. “This cannot be the standard for which ER doctors are terminated.”
The American Academy of Emergency Medicine has been a proponent of increasing protections as well. The nonprofit association worked closely with lawmakers to introduce a bipartisan bill that would protect the due process rights of emergency physicians.
The bill is meant to provide protection to doctors who are not directly employed by the hospitals they are working at but by physician staffing companies, an increasingly common situation.
“Unfortunately, federal law has not been updated to reflect these changes in the industry and due process rights are not guaranteed to physicians who are not directly employed by the hospital,” Reps. Roger Marshall and Raul Ruiz, cosponsors of the bill, said in a statement earlier this year.
They said the legislation would protect ER physicians who are employed by a third-party contractor or company.
Gilman said, after what has happened to him, it is clear the bill is sorely needed for medical professionals across disciplines.
“I would advise all specialties to also try to pass similar legislation as well,” he said. “I can’t be an Iraq War veteran, ER doctor, on the frontlines of the pandemic where 3,000 people are dying a day, and getting fired over a tweet about ICU beds.”
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