Health-care workers staggered by irrational attacks from anti-vaxxers


 CHRISTINA GOWER CALLS IT “MORAL DESPAIR”: the feeling she gets from the deluge of insult and vitriol she has to endure from anti-vaxxers, just because she wants to help sick people get well.

Gower is a psychiatric nurse at the Vancouver General Hospital. Close to 5000 anti-vaccine demonstrators mobbed her hospital in the middle of the day on September 1. They blocked traffic, including ambulances and patients scheduled for care.

‘A slap in the face’

The demonstrators yelled things like, “Freedom, freedom!” and “My body, my choice!” to express their anger with government anti-covid policies imposed to protect the health of the public. It was hard for the health-care workers not to take it personally.

“It feels like a slap in the face,” said Gower in an interview with CTV News.

“Our morale is low, we’ve been working short—we were short before COVID and now it’s here and we’re experiencing moral despair every single shift.”

Frontline workers flooded social media to express their anger and hurt at the spite-filled anti-vaxxer message that health-care workers were somehow to blame for what the government was doing. Many thousands were quick to post support for the health-care workers, thanking them for their efforts to care for patients while putting up with anti-vaxxer attacks.

Misdirected anger

“The place for that [demonstrating] is outside the legislative buildings,” wrote Vancouver nurse Shana Aguilar on Instagram. “They are the ones making policies. Health-care professionals are just trying to care for the ill and injured, including COVID patients.”

 “What a disgusting, misguided display of disrespect and ignorance,” wrote Kelowna General worker Jessica-Leigh Sandberg, in a post that went viral on Facebook.

“You have made us feel deeply disrespected,” wrote Dr. Kari Way, describing nurses in tears, ambulances unable to access the emergency department and loud car horns distressing elderly and delirious patients.

“Our nurses and staff are stellar—and they are burning out. Morale is low. Tensions are high. Beds are full.”

Several health-care workers pointed out they began their careers with the very clear requirement they’d need vaccinations to do their jobs, and pointed out no one would be refused medical treatment for being unvaccinated under the new vaccine health pass.

In a Facebook video, Dr. Kelly Kasteel pointed out they’re down 30 to 40 per cent of the nurses they need each shift in the wake of burnout and exhaustion.

Anti-vaxxers undeserved entitlement

Kastell said she was incredulous at the level of entitlement anti-vaxxers now demand, only a year after health-care workers faced up to the high risk of dying from COVID while treating patients.

“I would’ve taken the shot in my eyeball in March of 2020 because it’s the only thing that’s kept the health-care providers alive at this stage.”

She told of how she recently attended a 37-year-old patient critically ill with COVID-19, and unvaccinated.

“His oxygen was so low it was not compatible with life,” she recalled. “And he said, ‘Well I was waiting for FDA approval because I need more proof.’”

Gower expects some of the very people who voiced anti-vaccine or anti-public health order opinions outside B.C. hospitals will end up back there soon enough.

“When they turn up sick, they’re going to be asking for those same health-care providers to pick them up and make them healthy again,” she predicted. “And they’ll be putting those health-care providers and their families at risk.”

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