U.S. doctor fired for sounding alarm on lack of protective gear

Dr. Li Wenliang is no longer with us, sadly, to share what made him 2019’s most epic whistleblower — including, yes, even that one.

Li was the first doctor to sound the alarm in Wuhan, China, in late December about a SARS-like disease that would later become known as COVID-19.

For alerting users in a WeChat group, Dr. Li was dragged down to his local police station. where he was forced to sign a statement stating he had been “spreading rumors.” For this, he was let go with a misdemeanor.

He would die shortly after, a victim of the disease he was the first to let light in upon.

“It might have been a fortunate thing … if the public had listened to this ‘rumor’ at the time,” China’s Supreme Court said in vindicating him, according to CNN.

We aren’t the Chinese communists in America. We enjoy freedoms far beyond what most of their subjects will ever enjoy. When, in the course of this pandemic, there are parallels — no matter how much milder the censure may have been than Dr. Li’s — it is contingent upon each and every one of us to speak up.

In the case of Dr. Ming Lin, an ER physician in Bellingham, Washington, that censure came in the form not of arrest, but of termination.

According to The Seattle Times, Lin was fired Friday from PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, where he’d worked for 17 years after publicly speaking out about the lack of protective measures available to treat patients during the coronavirus crisis.

“I got a message that said, ‘Your shift has been covered,’” Lin told the paper.

When he called his supervisor, he was told he’d been terminated.

This interview with Lin explained why he was sounding the alarm and what he was sounding it about:

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He would also make his issues known publicly on Facebook:

“Lin said supervisors threatened his employment more than a week ago after he spoke to reporters and made social media posts accusing PeaceHealth of a lack of urgency to protect health care workers from the virus,” the newspaper reported. “Lin said he was told to take down his social media posts about the hospital but refused.

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“He continued to post daily updates on Facebook after shifts at the emergency room, although many of his posts had shifted away from hospital practices to efforts to help secure more protective equipment for hospital workers.

“Specifically, Lin had written that PeaceHealth St. Joseph refused to screen all patients outside the hospital, rather than in an often-crowded emergency room waiting area where the virus could easily spread. Two emergency department workers, who both asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, told The Times they shared Lin’s concerns about the possible spread of infection because of that practice.”

Protective measures against coronavirus, Lin and other hospital staff said, only came about after he had posted about them.

The hospital’s chief executive, Charles Prosper, told The Times that “several” members of the hospital staff had tested positive, although he said the infections had nothing to do with their work at the hospital.

However, the hospital wouldn’t comment on Lin’s firing, The Times reported.

There were plenty of people willing to offer condolences and outrage after Lin lost his job, although he said the firing was “a blow to my ego more than anything.”

If a bruised ego is his biggest wound, he can take solace in the fact that he’s become one of the heroes of the COVID-19 crisis:

Lin, however, has urged that people not take it out on the company that fired him.

“I am touched at what people have been doing on my behalf.” he wrote late Saturday. “But we are in a National Emergency of unprecedented times. PLEASE NO PETITIONS, NO PROTESTING , and please realize ANY NEGATIVE ACTION MAY HARM patients who need care from the hospital.”

It would be difficult, given the stakes involved, to take it out on the hospital, angry though we ought to be.

Let’s hope that Dr. Lin is the whistleblower we need to awaken us from torpor when it comes to personal protective equipment. It’s an important issue right now — and becoming informed is the first step. Most of us will be acting locally — but we should be pressuring representatives in Washington as we see fit.

Beyond that, we ought to celebrate what he’s done. We don’t employ the kind of tactics that China does, and thank God for that.

We pray for his safety — not just because he blew the whistle, but because a doctor of such acumen and bravery needs to be lionized. We don’t live in a country where, like Li Wenliang, he isn’t cleared by public opinion

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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