Another protest against mandatory vaccines for hospital workers was staged outside Barrie's Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre on Monday afternoon, but it was much smaller than a similar event held two weeks ago.
Around 100 people attended Monday's protest, which was significantly less than the one held Sept. 1 that drew around 300.
BarrieToday again canvassed the crowd looking for people who could prove they work at RVH and wanted to voice their concerns, but could again find no health-care workers willing to speak, even when assured of anonymity.
At today's protest, BarrieToday asked 57 people if they were a health-care worker at RVH and none could provide proof they were. At the event two weeks ago, a BarrieToday reporter spoke with 47 people, none of whom could show they worked there.
That is significant because Monday's protest was led by a group calling itself Canadian Frontline Nurses. Similar gatherings were scheduled to take place in Toronto, London, Ottawa and Sudbury, as well as in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland.
The event was billed as 'Standing Together Again for Informed Consent and Medical Freedoms,' after the Barrie hospital recently implemented a mandatory vaccination policy for all employees and anyone who does business at RVH.
One woman, who asked that her name not be used, said she was at Monday's event protesting the protesters. She said she was there to speak up for the silent majority who have been too quiet.
“This is my day off, so I’m using it this way. We need to let people know that there is more than one side to this,” she said.
The Sept. 1 protest at RVH was largely promoted by the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) and only included two speakers, both of whom are PPC candidates in the upcoming federal election. BarrieToday could not locate anyone organizing today’s protest and there appeared to be no PPC candidates on hand.
Canadian Frontline Nurses is not an official body representing nurses and/or health-care workers.
RVH president and CEO Janice Skot provided a statement to the media on today’s protest saying she was upset at how protesters were going about it.
“People have a right to peacefully express their opinions, but these rallies in front of hospitals are disheartening, frustrating and offensive to health-care workers who have worked tirelessly throughout this gruelling pandemic,” said Skot.
“While protesters line our sidewalk opposing the safety measures intended to keep our communities safe, exhausted staff and physicians inside RVH continue working long hours under extremely difficult conditions, caring for sick patients – including those with COVID-19.”
Skot also said that a crowd of largely unmasked protesters is also intimidating for patients coming to RVH for medical care. Dedicated health-care workers should not be the target of angry protests, she added.
“We believe now is the time to stand with our health-care workers, not protest outside the building in which they are doing heroic work,” Skot said.
Since the pandemic began, RVH has cared for nearly 550 COVID patients, according to Skot.
"Many of them have been critically ill, some have spent months recovering in hospital, and, sadly, 84 have died due to COVID-related complications," Skot said. "Our employees and physicians have seen first-hand the tragic and heartbreaking impacts of this virus, and RVH supports any effort to keep our patients, our team, and our community safe.”
Monday's protest was relatively peaceful, but entrances to the RVH grounds were being supervised by volunteers/staff and security.
An RVH representative told BarrieToday the security measures were in place because, during the Sept. 1 rally, “the protesters took over the parking lot and people with serious issues couldn't get parking or at least couldn’t park near the building.”
Meanwhile, Skot said RVH plays a large role in the region and will be there to provide medical care to anyone who needs it.
“Rest assured, if a person needs help, whether they believe in the safety measures or not, Team RVH is there to care for them with commitment and compassion," she said. "As a health-care centre, RVH must do everything possible to protect our patients and the people who care for them. Those precautions include strict adherence to safety protocols, universal mask-wearing and mandatory vaccination of staff, physicians, students, volunteers and anyone who does business in our health centre.”
An RVH representative said “close to 90 per cent" of RVH employees have been vaccinated with the "majority" having had both doses.