WASHINGTON, D.C.—The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is shocked and outraged by the growing reports of employers retaliating against frontline health workers who are trying to ensure they and their colleagues are protected while caring for patients in this pandemic.
William Jaquis, MD, FACEP, president of ACEP, said: “Emergency physicians are prepared to handle virtually anything thrown at us as we seek to treat and heal our patients, however, we should not be forced to put our own lives at risk and have our jobs threatened simply for wearing our own supplied protective equipment.”
The growing outbreaks of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, have already begun to strain our nation’s emergency departments causing a severe shortage of protective gear for emergency physicians and millions of other frontline health care workers. This dearth of hospital-supplied personal protective equipment (PPE), like N95 masks and face shields, has led to some buying their own or using donated equipment.
Efforts to silence, penalize or unjustly terminate health workers simply for wearing their own makeshift PPE can have catastrophic consequences for trusted institutions, their staff and the communities they serve. Not only does this type of retribution remove healthy physicians from the frontlines, it encourages others to work in unsafe conditions, increasing their likelihood of getting sick.
“As we combat this pandemic, emergency physicians and other health care workers on the front lines must be appropriately armored for the battle ahead. We need every qualified physician and health care provider we have available and healthy. We are in unchartered waters, and health care workers are doing the best they can to protect ourselves and our communities. Now is not the time to be blindly adhering to outdated or irrelevant policies—lives are on the line,” said Dr. Jaquis.
ACEP will continue to fight for its members and stand in full force behind its statements on PPE and physician protections. PPE guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to change as conditions evolve. While they should be followed, these guidelines should be considered the bare minimum for allowable protective gear. ACEP is calling on the Trump Administration to use its authority to allow emergency workers to wear their own personal protective equipment (PPE), especially when protection is otherwise unavailable from the hospital.
Each day thousands of emergency physicians work under unthinkable conditions as they bravely battle the public health crisis of our lifetime. We must do everything we can to protect those on the frontline and ensure they have the resources and support they need.