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In response to the recently-announced vaccine passport program, some Ontarians have taken to the streets to protest. Many of these protests have taken place outside hospitals, government offices, and other publicly-funded organizations across the province, including right here at Brock.
Protestors have called the program an infringement of their freedom of movement, and cited privacy concerns about sharing their vaccination status with employees at restaurants, movie theatres, gyms, etc.
To prepare for potential demonstrations at hospital sites, many municipalities have engaged local police to assist with sitewide security. A statement released by the Niagara Health System said, “we have reached out directly to the Niagara Regional Police Service and our security team…we are taking a zero-tolerance approach to protesters on hospital property to avoid any disruption that would block vulnerable people from accessing care at our sites or could leave anyone feeling unsafe or threatened.”
Protestors have failed to recognize that when it comes to vaccine passports, hospital staff are not the key decision-makers. In fact, the work being done at hospitals has very little to do with vaccines at all, because patients receive treatment regardless of their vaccination status.
Protesting outside of a hospital has almost no impact on policy-making, but a huge impact on patient care and staff well-being. Over the past two years, healthcare workers have had to face verbal and physical abuse from patients who disagree with COVID-19 protocols and are unhappy with their treatment.
On top of this, the protests taking place outside hospitals have greatly disrupted the delivery of essential services and hindered essential workers from being able to do their jobs. This has taken an extreme toll on staff mental health and well-being. With more patients than ever and less resources available on hand, hospitals are seeing record amounts of employee turnover.
“We’re definitely aware of the possibility that something like this could happen at our site. What is most concerning is that if it were to, patients in need of care would not be able to receive it. It is disheartening to see that this is what it has come to,” said Glorassia Fares, registered nurse.
With a fourth wave on the horizon, hospital staff are experiencing extreme mental burnout. This is only exacerbated by the fact that emergency rooms have been much busier than normal this summer and continue to rise daily. In fact, the Gatineau Hospital emergency department was forced to shut down earlier this year due to an extreme shortage of nursing staff.
Nursing shortages were already a concern before COVID-19, but the problem has grown significantly in the past year. Advocacy groups across Ontario worry that closures like this could become more frequent if drastic changes aren’t made to protect and support hospital staff.