Above photo: Dr. Cleavon Gilman.
Dr. Cleavon Gilman, a well-known emergency-medicine physician, has been asked not to return to his work at Yuma Regional Medical Center for his social media posts about the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in Arizona, according to him and his staffing agency.
“What I don’t understand about this is I have been advocating for Arizona; I have been calling for a mask mandate, the closure of schools and indoor dining,” Gilman told The Arizona Republic. “I did all of this because we are seeing an unprecedented number of cases. This is my third surge — I know how this ends.”
The hospital said in a statement late Thursday night that “there has been a misunderstanding” and Gilman is scheduled to work this weekend. “News to me,” Gilman tweeted.
Gilman, who in June moved his fiancé and two kids from New York to work in Yuma near the U.S.-Mexico border and “serve the small community during the pandemic,” has not been to work since Nov. 23.
“What happened to the 175 beds??? We likely don’t have nursing to staff them,” he added. The Arizona Department of Health Services at the time reported that 90% of ICU beds were in use.
His tweet received more than 81,000 likes and 30,000 retweets. Gilman said he finished his shift that day “without a problem.”
🧵NO ICU BEDS! When our rural Arizona hospital ICU is full, we medevac patients to different hospitals across the state, BUT NOT TONIGHT, because there were NO ACCEPTING HOSPITALS, so for an entire 12 hour shift we managed ICU patients, while treating other emergencies. 1/13
— Cleavon MD (@Cleavon_MD) November 23, 2020
The next morning, Nov. 23, Gilman had just arrived at the hospital when he received a call from the health care staffing company he works for, Envision Healthcare. Envision told him the hospital did not want him to come back to work.
“They told me it was because of the tweets and I couldn’t believe it because that was accurate information I posted to inform the citizens of Arizona,” he said. “It is a grave injustice and it’s not just happening to me. Doctors everywhere are afraid to speak up.”
Gilman was scheduled the following three days but the “hospital did not permit” him to come in, he said.
“All I know is this hospital is trying to crush my voice, they want to silence me and they want to financially hurt me. This is all so wrong.”
In a time where Gilman said hundreds of thousands of his colleagues are forced to leave the front lines due to burnout and rising infection rates among health care workers, it is a “slap in the face” to sit on the sidelines for “no reason.” But regardless of whether or not he holds a position at the hospital, Gilman said he isn’t going to be quiet on social media anytime soon.
Around 11:45 p.m. Thursday, Yuma Regional Medical Center said in a statement posted on Twitter that “While he is not speaking on behalf of YRMC, we respect Dr. Gilman’s right to share his personal perspective on the pandemic.”
“We need good caregivers like Dr. Gilman here,” the statement said.
A message from Yuma Regional Medical Center. pic.twitter.com/fHsVx2bguo
— YumaRegional (@YumaRegional) December 11, 2020
Gilman outspoken about COVID-19 response in Arizona
Gilman served as a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Marines during the Iraq War well before he became the chief resident of emergency medicine at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital during the beginning of the pandemic, a moment in history he said was “worse than war by a long shot.”
“The death toll during the entire Iraq War was equivalent to what we see now every single day,” he said. “You could leave a war zone if you couldn’t handle it. COVID is everywhere.”
Starting March 20, Gilman began documenting “what was happening on the frontlines” in his online journal, “#CleavonMDjournal.”
His first post: “Tough night last night. Intubated a young woman with a history of smoking who decompensated very fast. There are so many COVID cases in New York City.”
His posts about COVID-19 drew wide attention thanks in part to their insight into a hot spot in the early days of the pandemic. Approximately 203,000 cases of COVID-19 were reported in New York City during the first three months of the pandemic.
In the spring and summer he talked with Men’s Health and Insider, but his prominence skyrocketed with the tweet about ICU beds in Yuma.