Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Oklahoma governor threatened hospitals for talking to press about pandemic; Yuma physician briefly fired for tweets on it

Health-care workers all over America are speaking to the news media and posting on social media in an effort to show the public how badly the coronavirus pandemic is straining lives and resources; a few are getting pushback from elected officials who don't like the optics of their woes.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt "has complained to multiple hospital leaders about their employees — doctors and nurses — giving interviews with media outlets on the challenging conditions they face as the state continues to struggle with the Covid-19 pandemic, according to multiple sources with health-care facilities and the governor’s office," Ben Felder reports for The Frontier, a nonprofit new outlet.

On a recent call, Stitt reportedly complained to Jim Gebhart, the president of Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City, about news stories quoting doctors from the hospital. "On that call, Stitt said if doctors didn’t stop 'fearmongering' about capacity issues it could force him to impose a ban on elective surgeries, which would be a financial hardship for many hospitals," Felder reports. Stitt has made similar threats to other hospital leaders, according to an anonymous source in Stitt's office.

Stitt spokesperson Charlie Hannema said the governor wasn't trying to strongarm hospitals into being quiet, but was frustrated because hospital employees were telling news media different information than they told him. Stitt considered halting elective surgeries to increase capacity after learning from news reports how bad things are in hospitals, Hannema said, but won't pursue that because doctors have told him it's a bad idea. “There was never a threat of, 'We’re going to knock out your elective surgeries to punish you for talking to the media’ or ‘for saying the situation is one way or another',” Hannema said.

Meanwhile, Yuma Regional Medical Center fired emergency physician Cleavon Gilman after his tweets about severity of the pandemic, Jamie Landers reports for The Arizona Republic. After Gilman tweeted about his firing, the hospital faced widespread blowback on social media, and insisted that there had been a communication error and that Gilman had not been fired. "News to me," Gilman tweeted.

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