Dr. Cleavon Gilman, an emergency-medicine physician who has been outspoken about the dire conditions in American hospitals due to the coronavirus pandemic, says he was barred from returning to work at Yuma Regional Medical Center in Arizona after tweeting about shortages in hospital beds last month.
According to Gilman, the healthcare staffing company he works for, Envision, told him the day after his tweets were posted that the hospital didn’t want him to come back to work.
On Nov. 22, Gilman posted on Twitter, “Just got to work and was notified there are no more ICU beds in the state of Arizona.”
“What happened to the 175 beds??? We likely don’t have nursing to staff them,” he added in a follow-up tweet. As the Arizona Republic reported, the state’s Department of Health Services at the time reported that 90% of ICU beds were in use.
Gilman, who is Black, told the Republic that he was able to finish his shift that day “without a problem.” But since then, he has not been called back in to work.
“They told me it was because of the tweets and I couldn’t believe it because that was accurate information I posted to inform the citizens of Arizona,” he said. “It is a grave injustice and it’s not just happening to me. Doctors everywhere are afraid to speak up.”
“What I don’t understand about this is I have been advocating for Arizona; I have been calling for a mask mandate, the closure of schools and indoor dining,” Gilman told the local news outlet. “I did all of this because we are seeing an unprecedented number of cases. This is my third surge—I know how this ends.”
Gilman noted that hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers have been forced to step away from the front lines after 10 months of fighting COVID-19. Many have gotten sick or died from the coronavirus, and many others are burnt out from the toll of the work. Gilman said it was a “slap in the face” to sit on the sidelines for “no reason.”
In an interview with the Washington Post Thursday night, Gilman reiterated his claims, telling the paper, “The hospital is intentionally hurting me financially for speaking out, and I’m not permitted to work.”
The hospital contradicted Gilman’s statement in a statement released online late Thursday night, claiming “there has been a misunderstanding” and Gilman is scheduled to work this weekend.
“News to me,” Gilman tweeted in response.
As Gilman noted, healthcare workers in other parts of the country have said they’ve faced professional repercussions from speaking out about conditions in the nation’s hospitals. As the Post reports, one emergency physician was fired for criticizing a Seattle hospital’s ER precautions in March, as the state became the nation’s first COVID-19 hotspot. Later, in May, a D.C. hospital worker filed a lawsuit saying she lost a job under similar circumstances (the hospital claims the employee has not been fired).
Dr. Gilman is still sounding the alarm about COVID-19, which Americans are contracting—and dying from—at alarming numbers as each week passes. On Dec. 4, the rate of new coronavirus cases reached an all-time high for the pandemic, with more than 231,000 positive results in a single day.
“The death toll during the entire Iraq War was equivalent to what we see now every single day,” said Gilman, an Iraq War veteran. “You could leave a war zone if you couldn’t handle it. COVID is everywhere.”