LHSC neonatal nurse in hot water after organizing London's 'Freedom Rally'
Nurse Kristen Nagle regularly shares her beliefs about health and the pandemic on social media
A London, Ont., neonatal intensive care (NICU) nurse could be in trouble with her regulatory body after taking part in anti-mask and anti-lockdown rallies in the province and organizing one in Victoria Park over the weekend.
Kristen Nagle works at the London Health Sciences' Centre's Children's Hospital of Western Ontario, according to the College of Nurses of Ontario. She is entitled to practice with no restrictions, online records show, and has worked at the hospital since 2012.
Nagle attended the anti-lockdown rally in Aylmer, Ont., where 2,000 protesters marched through the streets, maskless, protesting against public health measures such as social distancing and mandatory masks. This weekend, she was one of the organizers of a similar rally in London, which drew far fewer participants.
The hospital wouldn't comment specifically on what discipline, if any, Nagle has faced, but did say it took "immediate action" when it was informed of the issue.
"While we are not able to address the specifics of an internal investigation due to privacy, safeguarding the health of our patients and their families, staff, and physicians is of the utmost importance and remains a top priority," hospital spokeswoman Mandy Gelinas wrote in an email.
Last week, hospital CEO Paul Woods scolded staff for not wearing their masks and not physically distancing while at work.
On Monday, the hospital said 19 staff members had tested positive for COVID-19, though the source of the spread is not known. An outbreak is ongoing on a medicine and an orthopedics ward at University Hospital.
Woods has called on staff to set themselves to a higher standard "when it comes to living and modelling public health guidelines both inside and outside our workplace."
Nagle did not respond to multiple requests for comment over the course of several days from CBC News.
'Puts the public in danger'
The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, however, said Nagle's actions are dangerous and has reported Nagle's anti-lockdown activities to the College of Nurses of Ontario, which regulates the profession.
"I have a concern about any nurse, or for any health professional for that matter, that propagates misinformation. It simply puts the public in danger," said Doris Grinspun, the RNAO's head. The professional association represents the interests of nurses and promotes public health policy.
"There is enough of this among non-health professionals, and health professionals absolutely have an obligation to protect the public. The evidence is very clear about COVID, so anything that negates the evidence puts the public in danger."
Grinspun said Nagle has a duty to follow evidence and promote public health guidelines. The College of Nurses of Ontario reiterated that sentiment in a written statement.
A spokesperson for the College said she could not comment but if an investigation were launched, the results would be made public.
In September, Nagle submitted her objection to the city of London's mandatory mask bylaw, in a public letter sent to a city council committee.
"I am a (registered nurse) that has been speaking up against masks, tyranny, losing our freedoms etc.," she wrote. "All current measures put in place further isolate us and separate us from community, increasing mental health issues, we are raising a fearful society, masks increase this fear, limit connection and increase stress (cortisol), anxiety and illness in our body."
Works with premature babies
In her role as a NICU nurse, Nagle works with some of the most vulnerable patients in the hospital.
She described her work to an interviewer on the video sharing platform Vimeo, where she said she works with premature infants.
"We work with [micropreemies], which are 23 weeks, about 500 grams and beyond, to very sick and needing surgeries," she said in the online video. "Very little, the palm of your hand."
Nagle is also one of the co-founders of Sweaty Successful Moms, the community group which planned Sunday's rally in Victoria Park. The group claims 99 per cent of people who are infected with the coronavirus are asymptomatic and recover easily.
More recently, Nagle has posted her own videos online in which she rails against wearing masks in indoor public places, such as an Oct. 30 Instagram video where she appears to be driving a vehicle while speaking into a camera.
Video shows nurse calling mask laws 'BS'
In the video, she describes an exchange with an employee of an eatery over the fact she did not wear a mask indoors, something from which she claims she's exempt.
"No business is allowed to deny you entry into a facility, especially with exemptions," she tells the camera. "I just want to pick up my nachos, I can see them on the table. It doesn't make sense. It's illogical. It's all for show. This is all politics. This is BS."
Nagle's Instagram account also shows her at a number of rallies against pandemic health measures, including in Aylmer and more recently, in St. Thomas where she's seen addressing a crowd.
"Stand up to hypocrisy because if you don't, the hypocrites will teach," she tells a group of protesters in the Instagram video dated Nov. 15.
"I'm an RN and and a registered holistic nutritionist," she said. "I could stand here and list facts, numbers and evidence… but there comes a time when truth is just felt. You feel truth deep in your being. The truth resonates."
Grinspun said she is disappointed that a nurse would disregard public health information, but that Nagle's is an "isolated case."
"This is just astonishing and, quite frankly, outrageous and disappointing," she said.
"I expect every single nurse to uphold all the public health policies and to use our power and expertise to advocate and promote and educate the public on those policies and on upholding those policies."
CBC will update this story should Nagle choose to provide comment.