Anti-vaccine signs posted at Sask. hospital an 'attack' on health-care workers: nurses union

·3 min read
Copies of this poster were 'plastered' on doors and windows at the Yorkton Regional Health Centre. It frustrated Tracy Zambory, Saskatchewan Union of Nurses president.  (Saskatchewan Union of Nurses - image credit)
Copies of this poster were 'plastered' on doors and windows at the Yorkton Regional Health Centre. It frustrated Tracy Zambory, Saskatchewan Union of Nurses president. (Saskatchewan Union of Nurses - image credit)

Numerous anti-vaccine posters that took aim at health-care workers were plastered around the hospital in Yorkton, Sask., leading to outrage from provincial groups that represent the workers, as well as Premier Moe and the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).

"You will be on trial for war crimes [and] held accountable!" said one of the signs addressed to medical practitioners and plastered across doors and windows at the Yorkton Regional Health Centre. Yorkton is about 175 kilometres northeast of Regina.

Tracy Zambory, president of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, received a photo of the signs from one of the hospital nurses on Tuesday evening.

She said it sparked two emotions: anger and heartbreak.

Zambory wasn't sure how many posters were put up, but there were enough to "make sure staff saw them."

"People felt almost like it was violence, and I know that seems like a really extreme way to put it or an exaggeration, but it isn't," Zambory said, mentioning the threatening tone of the sign.

"It's terrible to people who have been showing up every day since March of 2020 … and then they're faced with this kind of intimidation and garbage when they head into their workplace to do another long shift with very sick people."

The posters featured claims that the vaccine is experimental, that there's no guarantee of immunity and that the vaccine can have unknown long-term effects.

wright_nikola/Twitter
wright_nikola/Twitter

Zambory referred to many of the claims on the poster as "garbage" and "misinformation," noting that some of the claims — like no guarantee of immunity — are well-known. She said the vaccine doesn't grant immunity, but does provide a stronger defence against COVID-19.

When asked about responding to each claim, Zambory said there was no need to unpack or rationalize what the poster was intending to convey.

"There is nothing written on that poster that deserves one second of conversation outside of the fact that it is misinformation filled with ignorance and garbage," she said.

'It shouldn't happen'

Premier Scott Moe said he wasn't sure if new legislation his government plans to bring forward, which would create exclusion areas around hospitals to demonstrators and others who restrict access to workers, would apply to situations like this.

He told reporters Thursday that he would look into it, because instances like this "shouldn't happen."

"That is what that piece of legislation is about: is to ensure that we're protecting that area with an exclusion zone so protestors aren't coming in denying access to the public … or spreading misinformation," he said.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority said the signs "feed conspiracy theories" and are a dangerous use of misinformation.

"It publicly downplays the significant risk of harm and death created by community transmission of this virus," the health authority said in a statement.

Effects on health-care workers

Zambory said that messaging like this is an "attack" from "ignorant" bullies on health-care worker morale—which is already bruised from working in overburdened centres over the course of the pandemic.

She said that the strain has gotten to workers.

"Some people are even starting to contemplate, 'Why am I even doing this? Why am I here if this is the type of treatment I am going to get when all I'm doing is showing up and doing the job and taking care of the people of Saskatchewan?'" she said.

The Saskatchewan Medical Association also denounced the signs.

"While a vocal minority take the path of misinformation and division, I choose to reflect on the positive messages I and other physicians have received from the overwhelming majority of our patients," Dr. Eben Strydom, medical association president, said in a written statement.

The RCMP said they are investigating the "mischief" that was reported to them at about 9:30 a.m. CST Tuesday, but would not specify which charges could be laid in relation to the incident because it's still under investigation.

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