Ottawa Hospital security, police prepping for COVID-19 protest

A set of protests planned at The Ottawa Hospital and elsewhere in the country Monday is drawing attention from police and condemnation from elected officials in hopes of keeping hospital operations running.

The demonstrations, set for Monday afternoon at the Civic campus in Ottawa and at hospitals elsewhere in Ontario and coast to coast, are said to be in protest of restrictive COVID-19 measures and in favour of “health freedom.”

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Backlash and anger after anti-vaccine protestors target B.C. hospitals – Sep 2, 2021

The demonstrations are organized by a group that calls itself Canadian Frontline Nurses, which claims to be responsible for recent protests at hospitals in nearby Kingston as well as across the country in B.C. that have seen health-care workers and patients confronted as they were entering or exiting the hospitals.

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The Ottawa Hospital said in a statement to Global News that it is increasing its security presence to ensure patient care is not affected by the demonstrations.

“Those demonstrating outside of the hospital are putting not only staff and physicians at risk, but also the hundreds of patients who come to the hospital for care every day,” a hospital spokesperson said.

Recent protests have centred on the issue of vaccination mandates and certificates to access non-essential businesses. The Ottawa Hospital is among local health-care institutions that have mandated full vaccinations for all staff.

Read more: COVID-19 anti-vax protests causing ‘moral injury’ to hospital workers

“While we respect everyone’s right to free speech, we disagree with the position that these demonstrators have taken. We encourage everyone to get vaccinated, as it is the best form of protection from serious illness, hospitalization and death due to COVID-19,” the Ottawa hospital spokesperson said.

The Ottawa Police Service said in a statement that they will be at the Civic campus Monday afternoon to both protect the rights of protesters and maintain the public peace.

“Any disruption to hospital operations is unacceptable,” said an OPS spokesperson in an email.

The day of protest has been condemned by the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, the Ontario Medical Association, Premier Doug Ford and other elected officials and health-care professionals.

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Read more: ‘Totally unacceptable’ — O’Toole, Singh condemn planned demonstrations outside hospitals

In Ottawa, Mayor Jim Watson on Sunday afternoon asked in a tweet that protesters not disrupt health-care staff at Civic campus.

“As Canadians, we have the right to express our beliefs. However, when these protests get in the way of the critical work of our healthcare professionals during a pandemic, I won’t have it,” he said in a tweet.

Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans, who took leave from city council earlier this term while she received treatment for cancer, reminded demonstrators on Twitter that the care of patients should be paramount, and that “there are other places to protest.”

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Councillors Catherine McKenney, Shawn Menard and Jeff Leiper wrote a joint letter to Anthony Di Monte, Ottawa’s head of emergency services, over the weekend to ask for the city to use any tools possible to create a buffer zone between the hospital and protesters to avoid any disruption on Monday.

Global News reached out to the city to hear whether any such measures are being put in place, but was told police will be managing all security operations for the protest.

The Ottawa Hospital’s spokesperson added in a statement that the best way to support health workers through the fourth wave of the pandemic is to get vaccinated.

“Hospitals have received tremendous community support throughout the pandemic; from food and coffee, to wonderful signs and messages. Now, the community can show their support for health-care workers by getting vaccinated. It helps protect our health-care system from being overwhelmed, and ensures that health-care workers care can continue to care for those most in need.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

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