The tweet swiftly went viral, helping to propel Gilman to such prominence that President-elect Joe Biden later called to thank him for his advocacy. The next day, though, he says the hospital told the third-party company that he works through that it didn’t want him to return. Gilman, 41, says he’s been kept out of work since Nov. 23.
“The hospital is intentionally hurting me financially for speaking out, and I’m not permitted to work,” Gilman told The Washington Post on Thursday.
The hospital, though, insists that Gilman hasn’t been fired and in fact is scheduled to return to the ER this weekend.
“It’s clear there has been a misunderstanding,” Shay Andres, a Yuma Regional Medical Center spokeswoman, said in an email statement early Friday. “While he is not speaking on behalf of YRMC, we respect Dr. Gilman’s right to share his personal perspective on the pandemic.”
Gilman, in response, said that is “news to me.”
The conflict in Yuma, first reported by the Arizona Republic, echoes claims by other health-care workers who say they’ve faced repercussions from employers for sounding alarms about the dire state of a pandemic that has killed more than 291,000 Americans.
In March, a Seattle hospital confirmed an emergency physician had been terminated for criticizing its ER precautions, which an official compared to “yelling fire in a crowded theater,” the Seattle Times reported. In May, a D.C. hospital employee filed a lawsuit alleging she lost her job after posting that the hospital did not have enough coronavirus safety precautions. The hospital said that the associate had not been terminated.
Gilman, an Iraq War veteran who served as a hospital corpsman with the U.S. Marine Corps in 2004, spent the first months of the pandemic treating patients as the chief ER resident at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. He has given multiple interviews to national outlets including CNN and the New York Times, and was back in the spotlight last week when Biden called to tell him “how much he appreciates” the efforts of health-care workers like him.
During the months when New York City became the pandemic’s epicenter, Gilman spent up to three hours after his shifts documenting the disease in his blog. In June, Gilman, his fiancee and two children moved to Yuma to work at the hospital there.
Although Gilman had pushed through two coronavirus surges in New York and one peak in Arizona, the week before his Nov. 22 tweet, the physician says, the hospital had reached a dire point. He had intubated dozens of patients, and every shift, he said, he worried that at least two critically ill patients with covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, would die.
So when he got to the hospital the evening of Nov. 22 to find out it had run out of intensive care unit beds, Gilman took his frustrations to Twitter and posted the message in an act of “moral obligation,” he said. That night, the hospital was so full that he had to treat families infected with covid-19 in the waiting room. Back then, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 90 percent of the state’s ICU beds were in use.
“I have a moral obligation to provide the general public with the truth,” he said. “I didn’t do anything wrong. I was sharing information.”
Gilman went to bed after finishing his shift at around 7 a.m. the next day. When he woke up, the physician, who has more than 85,000 followers on Twitter, said he received a call from Envision Healthcare, the medical group that hired him, telling him that the hospital was “upset” and “didn’t want me to come back,” Gilman told The Post.
Gilman said hospital administrators have not called or emailed him to tell him he cannot go back. “I let my company, Envision, try to negotiate with the hospital,” he added.
In a statement to The Post, Envision did not directly address Gilman’s claims, instead noting that the doctor has “continuously advocated for his patients and the health and safety of the Yuma community.” The company confirmed Gilman’s account to the Republic.
He has now missed five shifts at the hospital despite a shortage of health-care workers after several colleagues have tested positive for the virus since then, Gilman said. As of Friday, the state’s department of health services reported Yuma County had the highest rate of cases per 100,000 in the state. The hospital, which should have seen him as an ally, he said, has instead treated him as a threat.
But the hospital, in its statement, insisted it values Gilman’s role in the ER.
“This is an ‘all hands on deck’ moment, in our emergency department and thousands of others across the country,” Andres said. “We need good caregivers like Dr. Gilman here, serving patients at the bedside and providing the best care possible, and we are grateful for all of those who continue to do that on the frontline every day.”
Gilman is unsure now whether he will return to the hospital. In the meantime, he said he will continue tweeting and speaking to the media to raise awareness about the seriousness of the pandemic.
“People are still dying,” Gilman said. “I’m not going to be quiet because you have a problem with me telling the truth.”