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Another nurse says they were fired for speaking out about COVID-19 problems

Emergency room hospital

A Detroit nurse says he was fired for speaking out about COVID-19 related problems in his hospital, adding to the list of several Michigan health care workers who say they faced similar retaliation.   

In a Facebook Live videoposted on Wednesday, Sal Hadwan says he was fired from Detroit Medical Center’s Sinai Grace Hospital in Detroit. 

“I was called to HR this morning, and basically was told that I’m getting terminated,” he said in the video. “They think I leaked the photos to CNN.

The photos in question showed bodies piled up and stored in vacant rooms, including one originally used for sleep studies. Hadwan denied the accusation that he leaked the photos.

“Everybody knows I didn’t do it,” he said. “I didn’t take the photo.”

Hadwan says he wasn’t given a detailed explanation.

“HR didn’t want to explain nothing, but they decided to terminate me because they think I leaked the photos to CNN. 

“I mean, honestly I’ve loved working here. I’ve loved working with my coworkers. You know, I enjoyed working at Sinai. You know, I enjoyed working at Sinai...I’m furious.”

Hadwan had previously posted a video about a sit-in he says nurses staged to protest what they described as dangerously low levels of staffing during the COVID-19 surge. 

In the April 5th video, Hadwan shows a group of nurses he says are on the night shift at Sinai Grace, walking out of the hospital. 


“Sinai Grace is like the epicenter ofthis coronavirus right now,” Hadwan said. “We’ve had three straight weeks with over 110 patients, and 12 to 14 nurses. At night, drops down to about eight nurses. And we’ve been accepting that, working hard, but tonight was the breaking point. We cannot safely take care of your loved ones out here with just six, seven nurses and multiple vents, multiple people on drips. It’s not right. We had two nurses the other day who had 26 patients and 10 vents, and nobody was out here to help. It’s unacceptable.”


On Thursday, a spokesperson for the Detroit Medical Center sent the following statement in response to a request for comment about Hadwan’s dismissal: 

"Our ethics hotline received complaints that employees had taken inappropriate photos of deceased patients at Sinai Grace Hospital and shared them with other employees. We conducted a comprehensive investigation and took appropriate action based on employee admissions of violations of our patients' right to privacy. We have an unwavering commitment and obligation to respect the privacy of our patients and to treat them with dignity and respect. We will not tolerate actions to the contrary. We will continue to uphold our Standards of Conduct applicable to all employees and are grateful for the hundreds of team members at Sinai Grace Hospital whose courageous work and dedication to patients has been inspiring.”


Last month, another DMC nurse told Click On Detroit that she’d been fired for violating the hospital’s social media policy, after making similar complaints about staffing shortages and a lack of personal protective equipment. 


And on May 1st, a nurse from a Muskegon hospital sued his former employer, Hackley Hospital, saying he’d been fired in “retaliation for publicly raising concerns about the safety of frontline health care workers and patients – a violation of the Michigan Whistleblower Protection Act and the Michigan Public Health Code,” according to astatement from the Michigan Nurses Association. 


“Retaliation against nurses who speak out about safety concerns is illegal and a disservice to patients and the public,” MNA president Jamie Brown said in a statement Thursday. “Health care executives use retaliation to try to silence those who speak out and intimidate others. Nurses are advocates, first and foremost, and we have a moral, ethical and legal obligation to speak up for our patients and community.”


Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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