- An emergency-medicine doctor in Arizona said he was fired from his position at Yuma Regional Medical Centre last month over his tweets about the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Dr. Cleavon Gilman, an Iraq War veteran, said he was told not to return to his job after tweeting that Arizona was out of available beds in intensive-care units.
- He told Business Insider that doctors everywhere were afraid to speak out about their experiences during the pandemic for fear of retribution and that healthcare workers generally needed more protections.
- Representatives for Gilman said Sunday night that he received an outpouring of support after the news of his firing broke. They also said that if all goes to plan, he’ll be back to work in the ER this week.
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An emergency-medicine doctor in Arizona who said he was fired last month over his tweets about the COVID-19 pandemic is set to return to work this week.
In tweets on November 22, Dr. Cleavon Gilman said that when he arrived at Yuma Regional Medical Centre to work that day, he learned there were no available beds in intensive-care units in Arizona. He tagged Gov. Doug Ducey 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 worked for told him it was because of 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 sidelined when his services are needed on the front lines.”
Gilman, an Iraq War veteran, has been a vocal figure throughout the pandemic. He has been featured in major news publications, including Business Insider, speaking about the experience of healthcare workers.
He worked in New York City during the initial COVID-19 surge last spring and moved to Yuma in the summer to work at the only hospital in the area. He said that 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 Centre did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
After the Arizona Republic broke the news on Thursday of Gilman’s firing, the hospital said in a statement that there had been a “misunderstanding” and that Gilman was scheduled to work that weekend. But Gilman said that was “news to me.”
Representatives for Gilman told Business Insider on Sunday night that he had received 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 tweets were not about the hospital but about the COVID-19 surge in Arizona and what he described as the warlike experiences of frontline workers during 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 every day in Arizona and the hospitals are at capacity.”
He also said people deserved 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 added that many were being suppressed by their hospitals and being silenced because of a 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 advocated increasing protections as well. The nonprofit association earlier this year worked with lawmakers to introduce a bipartisan bill to 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.
Reps. Roger Marshall and Raul Ruiz, cosponsors of the bill, said in a statement in May that federal law had not been updated to “reflect changes in the industry and due process rights are not guaranteed to physicians who are not directly employed by the hospital.”
Gilman said he thought that, after what happened to him, it’s 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 front lines of the pandemic where 3,000 people are dying a day, and getting fired over a tweet about ICU beds.”