Yesterday I received the following notice from the University of California, effective immediately, where I have served for almost fifteen years as Professor at UCI School of Medicine and Director of the Medical Ethics Program at UCI Health:
This termination has been an opportunity for me to reflect on my time at UCI, especially my time there during the Covid pandemic. Two years ago I never could have imagined that the University would dismiss me and other doctors, nurses, faculty, staff, and students for this arbitrary and capricious reason. I want to share a bit of my story, not because I am unique but simply because my experience is representative of what many others—who do not necessarily have a public voice—have experienced since these mandates went into effect.I worked in-person at the hospital every day during the pandemic, seeing patients in our clinic, psychiatric wards, emergency room, and hospital wards—including Covid patients in the ER, ICU, and medicine wards. As our chief ethics consultant, I had countless conversations with families of patients dying of Covid, and tried my best to console and guide them in their grief. When our pregnant residents were worried about consulting on Covid patients, the administration reassured these residents that they had no elevated risks from Covid—a claim without any evidential basis at the time, and which we now know to be false. I saw the Covid consults for these worried residents, even when I was not covering the consult service.I also remember in the early weeks of the pandemic when N-95 masks were in short supply and the hospital kept them under lock and key. Hospital administrators yelled at nurses for wearing surgical or cloth masks (this was before masks became all the rage after the CDC suggested, with little evidence, that they might help). At that early stage the truth was we didn’t know whether masks worked or not, and nurses were doing the best they could under pressure in a situation of uncertainty. The administrators yelled and ridiculed them, not wanting to admit the real issue was that we simply did not have enough masks. So I called local construction companies and sourced 600 N-95s from them. I supplied some to the residents in our department and my attending colleagues in the ER, then donated the rest to the hospital. Meanwhile the University administrators—the same ones who fired me yesterday—were working safely from home and did not have to fret about PPE shortages.