A planned protest by truckers in Toronto this weekend against vaccination mandates and COVID-19 restrictions has prompted affected healthcare workers to stage a counter-protest.
Organizers said they wanted to “establish a street presence during the convoy protest” to send a message that “access to health care must never be compromised.”
“We want to ensure that health services remain available to everyone who needs them and uphold the right of health care workers to report to work in their hospitals and clinics without harassment. We want to keep our streets open so that people patients can safely get the help they want and to reassure them that healthcare workers are on their side,” they said.
The truckers’ protest is expected to take place in Queen’s Park, near several of the city’s busiest hospitals. On Friday, Toronto police closed off part of University Avenue to protect Hospital Row.
Ahead of the protest, hospitals sent notes to staff about their plans for the protest, with some closing a number of wards and rescheduling appointments. Some have also been told not to wear clothing that would identify them as healthcare workers when they report to work.
“We always encourage our staff not to wear scrubs for infection control reasons. But in this case, we particularly heard from our colleagues in Ottawa that there were health personnel who felt harassed. So we really wanted to encourage our staff not to demonstrate that they were, in fact, healthcare workers until they were in their respective hospitals,” University Health Network President Kevin Smith said. , at CP24 on Friday afternoon.
He shared that coming to the hospital was a completely different experience with the police roadblocks that were erected around the area.
“Unfortunately, people are already feeling the consequences of these protests. And while we respect people’s constitutional right to protest peacefully, it is truly unfortunate that this is having a negative impact on exhausted healthcare workers and very sick patients.” , Smith said. noted.
Regarding the healthcare workers’ planned counter-protest, Smith said he was grateful they were standing up for their colleagues and patients, but said there was no need for more protesters at the center -city.
“So, you know, really, again, appreciate the feeling. But bringing more people to this very congested part of town, when we’re already really having traffic and access issues, that’s a perception very mixed,” Smith said. noted.
He hopes this weekend’s protest will be peaceful and short so hospitals can resume services on Monday so patients can get the care they need.
Smith added that if the protest drags on like the one in Ottawa, contingency plans are in place.
“We’re doing our best. We’ve obviously fallen behind as we’ve had to cancel a lot of activities due to the need to treat our COVID patients,” Smith said.
“We have a command center for intensive care which also involves ambulance services. We also have the possibility of examining the possibility of moving the activity of patients elsewhere.”