The CEO of Central Health is calling for kindness and respect from both employees and patients as medical professionals in central Newfoundland face harassment on social media.
Andrée Robichaud says what began as support for health-care workers at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has turned into hostility in recent weeks, fuelled by long wait times at emergency rooms across Newfoundland and Labrador and a recruitment issue that has led to understaffing.
"We have recruitment issues as the rest of the country does. People are frustrated and I understand that, but they really kind of need to be respectful toward our staff and our staff need to be respectful toward our clients," Robichaud told CBC News Monday.
The situation came to a head earlier this month, when the health authority issued a statement asking all parties to remember to be kind and respectful after Facebook posts about Central Health employees were shared on social media.
Robichaud said posts included some nurses by name, calling the posts harsh and derogatory. Some affected employees have asked the health authority if the posts could be considered defamatory, and have asked their employer if they would be supported if the incident were to be taken to court.
"I've had meetings with a group of employees in one of my regions where they felt attacked by the community, and they felt very bad," she said. "They don't deserve it."
Robichaud said similar incidents have also happened at Central Health facilities, where patients and employees have gotten into verbal altercations.
The health authority sent a notice to employees in June asking them to be more respectful in situations that could become hostile, she said.
"That is very difficult on our staff, and I think that if the population does have some concerns, we have a mechanism," Robichaud added.
"If we have some employees that are not responding in an appropriate manner, we want to know about it. But going out on social media and attacking our employees, I don't think is appropriate."