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Arizona ER doctor says he was punished for speaking out about ICU bed capacity

Dr. Cleavon Gilman, an emergency room doctor in Arizona, said he was punished for speaking out about the growing threat the pandemic placed on the state.

Dr. Cleavon Gilman, an emergency room doctor who had been working on the front lines of an unprecedented coronavirus surge at Yuma Regional Medical Center in Arizona claimed on social media that he was punished for speaking out about the growing threat the pandemic placed on his state's hospital system.

In a series of tweets and social media posts, Gilman said he was punished for tweeting in November that Arizona was running out of intensive care bed capacity.

"Just got to work and was notified there are no more ICU beds in the state of Arizona," Gilman tweeted on November 22.

Dr. Cleavon Gilman.
Dr. Cleavon Gilman.Courtesy Dr. Cleavon Gilman

Gilman told the Arizona Republic that the next day his employer conveyed to him that YRMC had requested that Gilman not return to work due to his posts on social media.

Gilman told the paper that YRMC was trying to "silence" him.

Representatives for Gilman did not respond to a NBC News request for comment Friday.

In a Facebook post shared early Friday, Gilman said he was "was told ONE DAY that I could not return to work over a tweet about ICU beds."

"This is unjust, but has happened to 100s of ER doctors nationwide. We need legislation that provides due process for ER doctors to ensure this never happens again," Gilman wrote.

"Hospitals should not be able to tell doctors that we CANNOT return to work without a fair hearing, but that is exactly what has happened to me and 100s of others!"

Gilman received a call from President-Elect Joe Biden last week, according to a Biden transition team video posted to Twitter.

For their part, Yuma Regional Medical Center released a statement saying there had been "a misunderstanding" and said that Gilman, who is employed through a Nashville-based national medical group called EmCare/Envision, "is scheduled to work at YRMC this weekend."

They did not directly address Gilman's allegation that he was told not to report to work prior to today.

"There is no question our nation’s COVID situation is serious. While he is not speaking on behalf of YRMC, we respect Dr. Gilman’s right to share his personal perspective on the pandemic," YRMC wrote.

NBC affiliate KYMA reported that YRMC is facing a dramatic staffing shortage with its President Dr. Robert Trenschel saying that this week there are many support and nursing staff currently out sick with Covid-19.

In a post on their website entitled "Addressing [Emergency Department] Wait Times," YRMC said that the Arizona Dept. of Health Services will be sending "a small 'strike team' of nurses and respiratory therapists to arrive to support our YRMC medical team" to help with the surge in severe Covid-19 cases.