Are administrators disciplining doctors who wear masks too often?

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We are in crisis. Hospitals have become, in addition to repositories for the pandemic, infectious with moral illness.

From an emergency medical physician:

I have been told not to wear a mask in every room, only in rooms of people with infectious symptoms. And we are talking about [just] a surgical mask. I have emails saying this, and they go on to say no outside masks from home unless they are simple surgical masks. I have replied saying that I absolutely will be wearing a mask and eye protection in every room.

Under the guise of maintaining “normalcy” amongst both staff and the public, administrators are rushing to suppress any protective measures they deem to be anxiety-provoking, at the blatant expense of health care worker safety.

This, frankly, is corona roulette; it is unclear who will become infected, and, of that subset, who will go on to become severely ill or even die. Further, it is uncertain who constitutes an asymptomatic carrier. Conventional wisdom would dictate all precautionary measures on deck, not a relaxation of standards.

“They are being reprimanded for protecting themselves. There is a Facebook group of administrators discussing how to rein in their doctors who disobey.”

Physicians and other health care workers will die. They will die in greater numbers than statistics would suggest from the virus alone. Healthy, vibrant, health care workers who will become acutely ill and fail all measures to save them.

“We have been warned by administrators that if we are caught wearing masks when not seeing a confirmed COVID, disciplinary action will be taken.”

“I was told it would upset the staff [to wear masks].”

“They writing up workers wearing a mask in hallways. They even denied a surgeon bringing them in for their staff.”

This. Over and over. Variations on the same theme. In fact, on an equally chilling note, the American Hospital Association has submitted a plea to Nancy Pelosi to have OSHA withdraw workplace safety standards. The argument is that they will be “impossible to implement.”  They are asking for OSHA to issue an “emergency temporary standard.” This new standard would remove all safety nets and leave workers with no recourse at all when working in this caustic environment. In addition, loosening workplace safety requirements would immediately create a greater risk to the public.

In a time when we need to pull together and demonstrate the most altruistic, humane versions of ourselves, we are discovering that appearance trumps safety, PR prevails over protection, and our value as a health care worker is farcical.

Mia Marietta is a surgeon.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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