In a new statement published on April 2, 2020, all 45 societies represented by the Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS)—over 800,000 physicians—emphatically declared their belief that all frontline healthcare professionals must have access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and be able to speak publicly about any shortages without retribution.
This statement comes days after reports emerged in mainstream media outlets of threats made to hospital staff who have spoken publicly about the difficulties they are confronting on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other cases, the story emerged of a Washington state emergency room physician who is said to have been fired after giving an interview to a newspaper on claims he had made about inadequate equipment and testing on his Facebook page, according to a report carried by Bloomberg News.
In full, the new CMSS statement reads:
“With more than 800,000 physicians across 45 specialties, the Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS) strongly urges action to ensure safer working conditions for physicians and other healthcare professionals on the frontline of direct patient care.
“CMSS and its member societies believe that adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) should be a fundamental expectation for all frontline healthcare professionals: CMSS and its member societies urge federal, state and local authorities to ensure an adequate supply and distribution of PPE for every frontline healthcare professional in the United States. Physicians and other healthcare professionals can and should expect their institutions to provide appropriate means to limit occupational exposure.
“Physicians and other healthcare professionals should be allowed to bring their own PPE to protect themselves, colleagues, and patients when these items are in short supply at their institutions. CMSS supports the Joint Commission statement allowing the use of private PPE, but this option does not obviate an institution’s responsibility to provide adequate PPE to all healthcare personnel.
“The United States needs a simple, uniform mechanism for all healthcare facilities to report their PPE needs and other medical supply needs to help guide optimal distribution of supplies across the country.
“Physicians and other healthcare professionals should not be at risk of having their employment terminated, or be otherwise disciplined, for speaking out, within their healthcare systems or publicly, on conditions and practices related to care of COVID-19 patients (including lack of PPE) that the physician and other healthcare professional has direct knowledge of and deems to be in conflict with the health and safety of patients, themselves and others involved in providing care to patients.
“CMSS supports the American Medical Association (AMA) statement that ‘no employer should restrict physicians’ freedom to advocate for the best interest of their patients.’ Physicians and other healthcare professionals may appropriately decide that going public (including to the news media and on social media) with their concerns is necessary to achieve needed change for the health and safety of patients and clinicians, both within the healthcare facility and more broadly.”
The CMSS societies include the Society for Vascular Surgery, the American College of Surgeons, the American Thoracic Society and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.