Bellingham doctor loses job after blasting hospital over virus

He said his superiors warned him to stop speaking out about what he considered sluggish preparations.

Dr. Ming Lin is an emergency room doctor at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham. (Dr. Ming Lin via AP)

Dr. Ming Lin is an emergency room doctor at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham. (Dr. Ming Lin via AP)

By Gene Johnson / Associated Press

BELLINGHAM — An emergency room doctor who publicly criticized the coronavirus preparations at his hospital in Washington state has lost his job.

Dr. Ming Lin, a ER doctor at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham for the past 17 years, told The Associated Press on Friday night he had been fired.

He said that 20 minutes before his shift Friday he was told it had been covered and that his direct director told him he had been terminated. However, TeamHealth, the national health care staffing company that does hiring for the hospital, insisted in an emailed statement Saturday it had not fired him but would try to find him somewhere else to work.

On Facebook and in media interviews Lin has 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.

He described taking steps to help the hospital obtain cots and personal protective gear being offered by local companies — efforts that garnered him a loyal local following, but, he said, also brought warnings from superiors to stop speaking out.

St. Joseph’s did not immediately return an email seeking comment. A statement from TeamHealth said Lin had not been terminated. It did not immediately respond to questions about why he had been removed from the hospital or whether the hospital requested it.

“We are committed to engaging with him to try to find a path forward,” the statement said. “Now more than ever, we need every available doctor, and we will work with Dr. Lin to find the right location for him.”

Lin scoffed at the notion he hadn’t been fired, and said he expected the company might offer him work at a different hospital 30 minutes to an hour away. He said he’s not interested.

In an interview earlier this week, 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.

“I feel so overwhelmed,” Lin said. “We’re like a high school basketball team that’s about to play an NBA team. The storm is coming, and I don’t feel that we’re prepared.”

In a statement released March 20, the day after The Seattle Times ran a story about Lin’s criticism, the hospital’s chief executive, Charles Prosper, insisted that the hospital was taking its preparations seriously. Prosper said the hospital had started restricting nonessential visitors and screening those who did enter for fevers, among other steps.

Prosper told The Bellingham Herald this week that “several” staff members at the hospital have tested positive.

Whatcom County had its first confirmed case by March 10. It has now had 92 confirmed cases and four deaths. At least 27 residents and 18 staff at a skilled nursing facility in Bellingham had tested positive as of Thursday.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

Seattle to withdraw request to lift oversight of police

The city attorney has been monitoring 14,000 complaints about officers’ actions during the protests.

Family of man who died by police restraint wants cops fired

The death of Mannie Ellis, 33, in Tacoma was ruled a homicide.

Huge crowd protests in Seattle as criticism of police mounts

Mayor Durkan said Wednesday evening that she was ending the city-wide nightly curfews.

Dog rescuers weather pandemic to bring a puppy to Renton

One Labrador retriever-beagle mix made a 2,100-mile journey from Mexico to its new family.

Contractor getting $5M bonus for Hanford vitrification plant

The project will turn radioactive waste into a stable glass form for disposal.

Washington unemployment fraud might be up to $650 million

The number of new claims for unemployment benefits in the state dropped to just over 31,000 last week.

Watch Gov. Jay Inslee’s Thursday news conference here

He is expected to discuss a variety of topics, including the coronavirus outbreak.

People peacefully protest at University Village on Monday in Seattle as demonstrations continued, sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times via AP)
Seattle mayor, police chief vow to review protest tactics

Pepper spray and flash-bang grenades had been used to break up a crowd of peaceful protesters.

Protests continue as Inslee backs review of police actions

Governor says armed citizens in front of stores, like in Snohomish, makes a volatile situation worse

Most Read