CALGARY — The United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) and the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) have addressed Monday’s anti-vaccine protests in front of Alberta hospitals.
“It is demoralizing for nurses and other health care workers risking burnout and COVID-19 infection in hospitals and other health care settings to see people who oppose vaccination efforts interfere with access to health care facilities,” UNA says in a release.
The UNA says it recognizes that people have a right to public protest, but gathering in large groups without masks or distancing is how COVID-19 spreads. The UNA says it’s in no way affiliated with the group of individuals that call themselves Canadian Frontline Nurses, and a quick look at their social media accounts shows general anti-vaccination and anti-mask sentiments.
“The vast majority of nurses in this country have seen first-hand the devastating effects of COVID-19 and understand that the only way out of this pandemic is through vaccination, physical distancing, masking, and vaccination validation.”
We know that at least some health care workers have attended rallies like this in the past. The UNA commented on it and says the few health care workers involved in anti-vaccination protests are taking attention away from the vaccine effort in the province and across the country.
Dr. Paul Boucher is the president of the AMA, he says he’s not happy with the demonstrations outside of hospitals either.
“As a healthcare provider, it’s very discouraging,” Boucher said. “It’s been a pretty difficult couple of years on everybody and we’re back right into it again, seemingly barrelling towards disaster. To have this happening while we are all inside, working real hard long hours, it’s really discouraging and it’s really disheartening. I think it’s making people angry.”
Boucher says morale is low among hospital staff as it is, many still remember being cheered on outside of hospitals in the early days of the pandemic, and with the added pressures of angry crowds outside their workplace, it’s challenging. He says people do have a right to express their opinion, and issues around the pandemic have been very polarizing, but somewhere along the way, we seemed to have lost the ability to have a proper conversation about things. He says recently the province has seen disparaging remarks thrown towards public health officials, physicians and others.
“It shouldn’t be happening, these are people that are trying to do their job and trying to keep the public safe,” Boucher says. “The whole situation, the rising case numbers and this has really been discouraging.”
Boucher says healthcare workers have been through heavy COVID infection waves before, and the cancellation of elective surgeries is an indicator that things are not boding well.
“The mood is that people are tired, and they’ve been grinding this out for the last number of months, working extra,” Boucher says. “I see nurses working double shifts, a lot of us physicians have been coming in on weekends and evenings, to try to deal with the extra beds that have been put on board.”
Boucher says staff have been deployed from all sorts of places to help out in the ICU; some that haven’t worked there for a number of years and some that have never worked there but have a set of skills that are complementary to the environment.
“This is extremely stressful on these individuals who are just trying to do their best to get through this,” Boucher says.