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‘They should be ashamed of themselves’: Protesters target B.C. hospitals disrupting patients, staff

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — As demonstrators loudly protest COVID-19 vaccine policies and mask mandates, patients and workers inside a number of B.C. hospitals are expressing frustration with their disruptive behaviour.

In Vancouver, thousands gathered near Cambie Street at West 12 Avenue crowding City Hall and Vancouver General Hospital Wednesday. The president of Doctors of BC, Dr. Matthew Chow, says people seeking treatment or care, deserve better.

“I have a whole number of emotions. And on behalf of 15,000 of my members … who’ve been fighting this pandemic since the beginning. Those emotions include sadness, that folks feel a need to protest in this way.”

Related Article: Thousands of protesters disperse into downtown Vancouver neighbourhoods

He adds that he is also frustrated people have chosen to be disruptive to the healthcare system. Chow says it’s also been “quite demoralizing for all our health care workers.”

He says protesters should be ashamed of themselves as their behaviour is inexcusable.

“These are health care facilities. People don’t want to be there. People are sick. They’re vulnerable. They want to get better. They need to do so in a peaceful environment. The staff who are caring for them need to be able to get to and from work without being harassed and abused. Having a protest right in front of a major hospital like that, I really hope that the people that have engaged in this and planned this really reflect upon their motivations for doing so, and think about whether they’re actually helping our society versus actually getting in the way.”

Vancouver is not the only site for this kind of demonstration. Rallies were also planned to take place in Kelowna, near the Victoria Hospital Foundation and at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital.

But according to B.C. Emergency Health Services, no ambulances have had to be redirected from hospitals.

“There have been some reports of slowdowns as paramedics navigate through heavily congested areas,” the statement to NEWS 1130 reads. “We’re doing our best to arrive as safely as possible at hospital emergency departments around the province.”

Island Health staff assaulted

In a statement from the Island Health President and CEO, Kathy MacNeil, called the demonstrations unacceptable to her and the people and communities healthcare teams serve.

“Our health-care teams deserve respect and support, no matter what personal beliefs we hold.”

Health care workers in the region were verbally abused “as they came to and left work during these protests.”

In at least one case a health care staff member was physically assaulted according to MacNeil.

Doctors of BC support mandatory vaccine mandate for health care workers

Demonstrators in Vancouver shouted and waved signs expressing frustration and anger over the vaccine itself, the pandemic measures as well the incoming vaccine passport. Starting Sept. 13, proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 shot will be required at restaurants and certain other businesses, services, and events in B.C.

On Tuesday, during a COVID-19 briefing, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said they are working on a plan to ensure all health care workers are vaccinated.

The province announced in early August all long-term care workers would have to be vaccinated by Oct. 12. The order also includes volunteers and personal service providers but did not extend to nurses or other health care workers.

Now, the province says it is taking steps to make that mandatory.

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Chow tells NEWS 1130 he is expressing support for vaccination, saying at least 97 per cent of all physicians in B.C. are fully immunized, and they want everyone who’s eligible to join them.

“Doctors of BC supports a mandatory vaccine mandate across healthcare.”

He adds, he would also support mandatory vaccinations in education and childcare, “but I think a very reasonable place to start is in healthcare.”

‘Go the hell home’

As protesters move towards the Cambie Street Bridge shortly after 3 p.m., Vancouver Mayor, Kennedy Stewart, told NEWS 1130 he hopes healthcare workers know, “we’ve got their backs and this small group of fanatics does not speak for all of us about how grateful we are to all the work that you’re doing day in and day out.”

“All I can think of is, ‘Go the hell home.’ We are just also exhausted. Everybody’s tired of this. And all we need is a bunch of yahoo’s out there that really just need to get in line with the rest of us that are fighting so hard against COVID.”

The mayor is calling on people who know others that are protesting the COVID-19 regulations to “sit down and talk with them.”

“Tell them to read an actual news source and to see the devastating impacts and how we’re not out of this by a long stretch.”

In response to the demonstrations, the province’s Premier, John Horgan, took to Twitter to express his appreciation for healthcare workers who “have been true heroes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, working long hours in difficult conditions to care for us, our loved ones & to keep our communities safe.”

“While everyone has the right to peaceful protest, the targeting and harassment of health-care workers at health-care facilities today is completely unacceptable. We stand by our healthcare workers and support them fully,” his tweet reads.

“The intent of every COVID-19 guideline and restriction that we’ve put in place since the beginning of the pandemic is to keep people healthy.”

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