NEW YORK, March 31 (Xinhua) -- With the coronavirus pandemic overwhelming U.S. health services, some hospitals have warned their staff not to speak out about the lack of equipment unless they want to be fired, U.S. media reported on Tuesday.
As the United States has become the country with the most COVID-19 cases around the world, health care workers are facing a severe shortage of medical masks, gloves, gowns and other personal protective equipment (PPE).
Photos trending online in these days showed that medical workers in a New York hospital who could not get medical gowns were wearing black garbage bags while taking care of patients infected with the virus.
A number of doctors and nurses have also posted videos on social media, showing the dire condition they are facing in their workplaces.
Facing criticism online, some U.S. hospitals decided to muzzle their staff.
In New York City, faculty, residents and staff at NYU Langone Health, a premier academic medical center in the United States, received an email telling them to forward all media inquiries to the communications and marketing personnel, the Wall Street Journal reported.
"Anyone who does not adhere to this policy, or who speaks or disseminates information to the media without explicit permission of the Office of Communications and Marketing, will be subject to disciplinary action, including termination," the U.S. newspaper quoted the email as saying.
In Washington State, an emergency room physician, called Lin Ming, reportedly lost his job after talking to a local news channel about the lack of protective measures against COVID-19 and testing at his workplace.
"My biggest concern is that we're fighting this blind," he told Q13 Fox last week.
Lin worked in the Emergency Room at Peace Health St. Jospeh's Medical Center for nearly 18 years.
The facility posted a statement on its Twitter account on Saturday, stressing that it is fully equipped with PPE to cope with the pandemic.
"There are stories of no masks, no gowns, no beds, and no equipment that unfortunately exists in other parts of the nation. For right now, that is not the case in our emergency department and our hospital," it said.
"Hospitals are muzzling nurses and other health-care workers in an attempt to preserve their image," Ruth Schubert, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Nurses Association, told Bloomberg.
In a statement to CNN, NYU Langone Health defended its policy, saying that it aims to "protect the confidentiality of our patients, and our staff, particularly as we respond to this unprecedented crisis."
"It is in the best interest of our staff and the institution that only those with the most updated information (about COVID-19) are permitted to address these issues with the media. We have a responsibility to the public at large to ensure that the information they receive from our institution is accurate," the statement said.