Radiologist active on social media hearing ‘widespread reports’ of hospitals muzzling docs during pandemic

A prominent radiologist who monitors two Facebook groups with 70,000 physician members said she’s hearing “widespread reports” of hospitals preventing her peers from sharing their coronavirus stories. Such policies could be on shaky ground, following a recent ruling from the National Labor Relations Board.

Nisha Mehta, MD, who works at the at the Veterans Affairs health center in Charlotte, North Carolina, recently told Bloomberg that she’s fielded numerous requests from physicians hoping to get the word out. Hospitals have already fired at least two healthcare workers in the U.S. for voicing concerns about testing and equipment shortages. Those include an emergency room doc in Washington state and a nurse in Chicago, according to published reports. Top imaging provider NYU Langone Health has also reportedly warned employees they may be terminated for speaking to the media without authorization.

“I’m hearing widespread stories from physicians across the country and they are all saying: ‘We have these stories that we think are important to get out, but we are being told by our hospital systems that we are not allowed to speak to the press, and if we do so there will be extreme consequences,” Mehta, who is also a member of the Radiology Business Journal Editorial Advisory Board, told Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, provider groups such as the Washington State Nurses Association are pushing back against restrictions, wanting to warn others about their experiences with COVID-19 patients, and solicit donations. One Harvard Law School expert speculated that hospitals are trying to limit reputational damage during the crisis, but believes transparency is the smarter route.

“It is good and appropriate for healthcare workers to be able to express their own fears and concerns, especially when expressing that might get them better protection,” said Glenn Cohen.

A recent ruling from the National Labor Relations Board backs up Cohen’s claim, and affirms that such hospital policies may be on shaky ground going, Law360 reported March 31.

Other institutions have actively offered their radiologists and other clinicians for interviews during the coronavirus crisis, including New York’s Mount Sinai.

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