Hospital says protests against pandemic measures demoralize health workers

TORONTO – A Toronto hospital where protesters denouncing COVID-19 measures demonstrated Monday afternoon said such demonstrations demoralize healthcare workers who have cared for virus-infected patients despite the risk to them. and their families.

The University Health Network, which runs Toronto General Hospital, made the comments in a statement ahead of a series of protests expected to take place in hospitals across Canada on Monday.

“Vaccines offer the best chance of preventing hospitalizations, ICU admissions and life-preserving ventilations,” the hospital network said.

“Seeing protests in front of hospitals is demoralizing for everyone who works here, but particularly for the staff who have cared for people dying from COVID-19, often without their entire family and loved ones around.”

That sentiment was shared by some doctors outside the facility as a crowd of protesters gathered nearby.

Dr. Andrew Boozary, University Health Network executive director of social medicine, said the event “feels like a moral punch” for those in a healthcare system already dealing with burnout due to the pandemic.

“To block and intimidate people who come for attention sometimes is a huge blow,” Boozary said. “I think we have to remind ourselves that this is a very small vocal minority.”

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the hospital Monday afternoon, many of them condemning Ontario’s proof-of-vaccination system, which is scheduled to go into effect next week. Several policemen were also present.

An organization calling itself Canadian Frontline Nurses posted notices of “silent vigils” that are expected to take place in all 10 provinces, saying they are intended to criticize public health measures put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Possible locations also include the Winnipeg Health Sciences Center and the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Center in Halifax.

Organizers say they want to take a position against what they call “tyrannical measures and government overreach,” adding that they are not encouraging nurses to drop their shifts or abandon patients.

Dr. Andrew Boozary, executive director of social medicine at University Health Network, said the protests feel “like a moral punch” for those in a health system already grappling with burnout due to the pandemic. # COVID-19

Some high-ranking Ontario politicians and prominent healthcare organizations have also issued warnings about the events.

Ontario Prime Minister Doug Ford, whose province was one of the targets of earlier similar protests after he announced plans for a vaccine testing system, condemned the latest round Sunday in a tweet describing events as “selfish, cowardly and reckless. “

The Ontario Registered Nurses Association and the Ontario Medical Association issued a joint statement “strongly condemning” planned outages and calling for designated safe zones around health care facilities to protect staff and patients, a proposal that the new Democrats of the province have also raised.

“Nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers have been working around the clock on the front lines of the pandemic for 18 months helping to keep our communities safe,” reads the joint statement Sunday. “These COVID-19 heroes need the resources and support to continue the battle, now in the midst of a fourth wave. They cannot and should not be distracted, or worse still, discouraged by the protests at the doors of their workplaces ”.

Toronto Mayor John Tory also took to social media to condemn planned protests for some city hospitals, adding that he has been in contact with the local police chief about the events and received assurances that staff would be there. protected and patients could access the buildings.

“I support the police in taking whatever action is necessary to protect the lives of innocent people seeking health care and all of our health care heroes,” Tory wrote on Twitter. “The time is long past when we can have this tyranny of the few who interfere with access to healthcare during a pandemic.”

Some federal party leaders also addressed planned demonstrations while in meetings.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau promised to enact legislation that would make it a crime to obstruct access to any building that provides health care or to intimidate or threaten health care workers in the performance of their duties, as well as any patient receiving such care.

“I am deeply disturbed by the anti-vaccine rallies outside of hospitals and healthcare facilities in recent weeks,” Trudeau said in a statement Monday.

“These people are intimidating our health care heroes and putting Canadians seeking health services at risk. I will not accept this. “

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said peaceful protest is one thing, and harassment of people accessing and working in healthcare is another.

“This type of harassment and protest in front of hospitals is completely unacceptable,” he said during a campaign event in Ottawa.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said it is wrong to protest in hospitals.

“No healthcare worker, no patient, no one seeking medical care should be limited or have a barrier to getting the care they need,” he said while campaigning in Sioux Lookout, Ontario.

Past protests have focused both on public health measures and the prospect of vaccination test systems that would limit access to many public settings for those who have not been immunized against COVID-19.

British Columbia’s system goes into effect on Monday, while Ontario’s will launch on September 22.

Quebec launched earlier this month, Manitoba began issuing vaccine cards in June, and both Nova Scotia and Yukon have said vaccination test systems are in the works.

This Canadian Press report was first published on September 13, 2021.

– With files from Mia Rabson and Allison Jones

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