May 18, 2022

ACEP Calls for Stronger Protections for Emergency Physicians Who Raise Workplace Safety Concerns

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) held a virtual public meeting on May 18, 2022, about improving its Whistleblower Protection Program. ACEP Council Speaker Kelly Gray-Eurom, MD, MMM, FACEP, stood strongly for emergency physicians nationwide.  

“We continue to hear from emergency physicians who are being threatened or terminated for expressing safety concerns,” said Dr. Gray-Eurom. “I don’t think it should matter how emergency physicians are employed. We need to make sure everyone has the same protections.”

The goal of the meeting was for stakeholders to offer feedback directly to OSHA leaders and address how can it deliver better whistleblower customer service, what kind of assistance can it provide to help explain whistleblower laws to employees and employers, and what OSHA can do to ensure that health care workers are protected from retaliation for raising concerns related to COVID-19. ACEP outlined its concerns in formal comments to the agency available here.

Dr. Gray-Eurom explained that many emergency physicians are independent contractors who are not employed directly by their hospital. Within their contracts, emergency physicians can be required to waive due process rights, which means that if emergency physicians raise valid patient safety concerns, they can be terminated or removed from the staffing schedule.

“Unfortunately, many of the emergency physicians in this country don’t have due process and are very vulnerable,” she said. “That creates potential for a workplace where a physician doesn’t feel empowered to speak up when they see patient safety issues.”  

Dr. Gray-Eurom outlined some of the ways that ACEP supports due process and whistleblower protections for emergency physicians, regardless of their employment arrangement, and finished with a call to action that more must be done to protect emergency physicians on the job.

“We urge OSHA to release standards for what can or cannot be included in contracts,” she said. “We welcome the chance to be part of the conversation about creating and enforcing workplace protections for emergency physicians.”

Related Resources:

ACEP resources to help emergency physicians navigate employment contract issues include webinars, a checklist to help physicians with contract negotiations, a legal services directory, an employer transparency roster, and more.  

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