Health workers who faced jeers and harassment at rallies for “health freedoms” Wednesday deserve better, a Kelowna woman says.
“I’ve heard from a lot of them since yesterday who said the protest was pretty demoralizing,” former city councillor Michele Rule said.
“Just 18 months ago, we were cheering every night with pots and pans and doing drive-bys at the hospital every week, but it faded.
“That’s our fault. We acted like it was over, but they still had the work to do.”
The protest outside Kelowna General Hospital and other Canadian hospitals were organized by Canadian Frontline Nurses, a group founded by two Ontario nurses. It pushes messaging from which most healthcare professionals have distanced themselves.
They urged supporters to “stand up for freedom” and “reject the tyranny of mandatory vaccines.”
All that happened during the nation-wide protests makes now the right time to restart regular acts of appreciation, Rule said, to remind workers that she and the vast majority of British Columbians still appreciate the work they’ve done.
She put out a call for those who are interested to drive by Kelowna General Hospital at around 7 p.m. and show their support. She has no idea how many people will come, but she’s had some positive feedback so far.
People plan to drive by, hang signs of support and maybe even dangle a few balloons, just so hospital workers know they’re valued.
“Some people may walk, but they will maintain proper distances and everyone will wear a mask because want to maintain safety rules,” she said.
“Some people can’t go, so they will bang pots and pans. Everyone is welcome to do that — the more the merrier.”
Ultimately, the aim is to wash away some of the negativity that set in Wednesday with the protest.
“That was in an inappropriate place, really inappropriate, and I thought, ‘This is something we have to do,’” she said.
“I don’t know how busy it will be. It will be busy enough. We don’t want to clog roads, or impede traffic or anything like that.”
Global News spoke to several health-care workers at the hospital on Wednesday, who said they respect the right to protest, but demonstrating in front of a hospital was simply the wrong place to gather.
“View from the (operating room) today. The same (operating room) that is running at <60% capacity for the 3rd week in a row due to an overwhelming # of COVID+ unvaxxed hospitalizations. I’ve never been so disappointed in my community,” Gareth Eeson, a surgical oncologist at the hospital, tweeted.
While the negativity took its toll, local politicians were quick to voice their support for health workers and condemnation of protesters.
“The caring people who work in this hospital have been run off their feet,” Dan Albas, MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, said in a tweet.
“It is well known the COVID ward is beyond capacity. The people who work in health care during this pandemic deserve our gratitude and support. This protest should have been held elsewhere.”
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran also spoke out.
“I think it’s really disgusting that you have health-care workers who are under tremendous stress, keeping people alive, particularly the unvaccinated who’ve now gotten sick,” said Basran.
“And to go and protest and put further stress on them, I think is so misguided and irresponsible.”
There is no set rallying point, Rule said. People should just go by between 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursday when they have time.
“If you get there and it’s busy, come back,” she said.