Staff at Vancouver hospitals are being warned to take precautions ahead of a planned vehicle convoy and protest against COVID-19 mandates.
In a memo emailed to all Vancouver acute and medical staff, Vancouver Coastal Health said the route for Saturday’s protest was expected to take it past Mount Saint Joseph’s Hospital, Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital.
Staff were urged to stay indoors during the convoy, not to engage with any protesters they encounter and to “refrain from wearing scrubs and/or your ID badge outside of the hospital during the demonstration.”
“We acknowledge the right to peacefully and legally protest,” the memo states, before noting legislation passed in November making it illegal to intimidate people or impede access to a health-care facility within a 20-metre bubble zone.
“In order to ensure safe access for staff, patients, clients and visitors, Integrated Protection Services (IPS) and local law enforcement will be closely monitoring the situation,” the memo adds.
Staff who feel threatened are being asked to contact site security. Workers were also directed not to speak to media.
“We understand that this is beyond disheartening in the face of all that you have been through and the extraordinary work each of you have been doing over the last two years of the pandemic,” the memo goes on to say.
Providence Health Care, which operates the Mount St. Joseph and St. Paul’s hospitals reportedly sent a similar memo to its staff.
A Facebook post for the “Media is the Virus” protest advertises it as a “family friendly event,” and reminds participants that “emergency vehicles have the right of way, so make room when required, and don’t block emergency areas, such as entrance/exit at St. Paul’s Hospital on Burrard.”
Earlier Friday, Mayor Kennedy Stewart issued a statement saying Vancouver police and the city manager were closely monitoring the situation.
“The proposed route passes three important health care facilities,” Stewart said.
“While every Canadian has a right to peaceful and respectful protest, nobody has the right to promote hate, jeopardize the safety of our communities, or interfere with access for patients, staff or first responders.”
Friday’s communique comes as a demonstration against COVID-19 measures in Ottawa prepares to enter its second week, with protesters occupying an area around Parliament Hill.
That protest has seen numerous reports from residents of being harassed or threatened for wearing masks on the street.
On Friday, GoFundMe suspended a fundraiser for the Ottawa protest, stating that it had begun as a sincere and peaceful protest but had “become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity.”
On Thursday, COVID-19 protesters demonstrated outside of a New Westminster vaccine clinic, where according to one physician they berated and intimidated health-care workers entering the building in apparent violation of B.C.’s Access to Services COVID-19 Act.
New Westminster police later said they were on site to keep the peace, adding the bubble zone act does not prohibit protest itself within 20 metres of a faculty, only blocking access or intimidating people.
In September, COVID-19 protesters faced major backlash after demonstrating outside of hospitals in Vancouver, Kamloops and Kelowna.