Report: Michigan nurse says he was fired for voicing concerns about hospital conditions amid pandemic

A Detroit nurse is claiming that he was fired for speaking out about problems in his hospital during the coronavirus outbreak, Michigan Radio reports.

Sal Hadwan posted a live video on Facebook Wednesday about his dismissal from Sinai Grace Hospital, part of the Detroit Medical Center.

“I was called to HR this morning, and basically was told that I’m getting terminated,” Hadwan said in the video, which is now unavailable, according to Michigan Radio. “They think I leaked the photos to CNN.”

Hadwan was referring to photos that showed bodies stored in parts of the hospital, including a room usually used for sleep studies. The CNN report about the photos alleged that the morgue wasn’t staffed at night and that the hospital needed the beds for more patients.

Fired for speaking out?

Hadwan claimed that he did not take the photos shared in the article and said that the hospital’s HR department didn’t give him a reason for the termination.

According to Michigan Radio, Hadwan posted another video in early April about a nurses’ sit-in over staffing shortages in areas of the hospital treating coronavirus patients. In the video, which is also no longer publicly available, Hadwan said the nurses were working “to the breaking point.”

“We cannot safely take care of your loved ones out here with just six, seven nurses, and multiple vents, multiple people on drips. It’s not right. We had two nurses the other day who had 26 patients and 10 vents, and nobody was out here to help. It’s unacceptable,” he said, according to Michigan Radio.

A spokesman for Detroit Medical Center told Michigan Radio in a statement that some employees had been terminated because they violated patients’ right to privacy by taking the photos.

Policy violator or whistleblower?

According to Hadwan, however, his firing is part of a pattern of firings of nurses who speak out about adverse working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We asked for more help,” he told Fox 2 in Detroit. “We needed more staff to make sure we are able to provide the level of care that we want to give the patients.”

Another DMC nurse, Kenisa Barkai, is suing the medical center after being fired for allegedly violating the center’s social media policy by showing her PPE (personal protective equipment) as she treated the first coronavirus patient there, ClickOnDetroit reported, according to Michigan Radio.

Another nurse sued Hackley Hospital in Muskegon on May 1, seemingly with the blessing of the Michigan Nurses Association — for allegedly firing him in “retaliation for publicly raising concerns about the safety of frontline health care workers and patients – a violation of the Michigan Whistleblower Protection Act and the Michigan Public Health Code,” a statement from the association read, according to Michigan Radio.

As the outbreak wanes and conditions return closer to normal, the courts will have a lot to sort through about governmental behaviors in the midst of the crisis. Looks like we can add whistleblower complaints to the list.

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