Protest mars family's last moments with dying mother

Front-line health-care workers, visitors and officials at Ottawa's Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital say the protest that has gripped the city's downtown is making a bad situation even worse.

Health-care workers at Ottawa's Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital say they're being harassed

Nancy Hall says she's lost all patience with the convoy protesters after they caused her family even more stress during her mother's final hours. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Every day for the past six years, Nancy Hall made the trip from her home in Chelsea, Que., to visit her mother in a long-term care residence attached to Ottawa's Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital in Lowertown.

Recently, Alice Hall's health took a turn for the worse. She died Monday. She was 94.

Nancy Hall said the noisy demonstration by truckers and others opposed to COVID-19 vaccine mandates in Ottawa made an already sad situation immeasurably worse.

"It was stressful enough … and then to have this impediment to getting here, well it just was overwhelming," Hall said of the blockades and bridge closures. "Just the feelings of seeing the trucks and knowing what they stood for when my mom was dying in a long-term care setting, it was brutal."

While Hall says she respects people's right to peaceful protest, her patience has run out. 

"I'm just done with it. I just have no more tolerance for that," she said. 

Located in Ottawa's Lowertown neighbourhood, approximately one kilometre from Parliament Hill, staff at the Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital say they are feeling the negative effects of the convoy and its protesters. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Front-line workers yelled at

The protest is also affecting staff at both the Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital and its sister campus, Saint-Vincent Hospital near Bronson Avenue, according to the hospital's administration. Both are in the area the city is asking people to avoid.

"[Staff] are reporting feeling quite intimidated and threatened when they're walking into work if they're wearing a mask," said Peggy Taillon, the hospital's vice-president for strategy and communications. "They're being pointed at and being yelled at."

While the two hospitals are accustomed to dealing with large-scale events such as Canada Day and one-day protests, Taillon said the days-long protests have created new challenges.

"This is far more disruptive because it's sustained and prolonged and we actually don't know what to expect from day to day," she said. "It's been really hard on our team."

WATCH | Health-care workers downtown stressed by protests:

Health-care workers at downtown Ottawa hospitals facing stress caused by protests

2 years ago
Duration 1:10
Peggy Taillon, vice-president for strategy and communications at Bruyère Hospital, says protesters have been harassing health-care employees who are trying to get to work, leaving facing yet more stress.

For example, Taillon said, staff are having to spend more time commuting and there have been instances of delays in shift changes. 

"What we're seeing is an eight-hour shift is turning into a twelve-hour shift," she said.

Taillon said thus far, the quality of patient care for those admitted to the hospital has not been affected, but she's heard from doctors who say the protest has disrupted scheduled visits and treatments. 

"Patients who had been waiting weeks for appointments that had been postponed or cancelled because of the [province's] lockdown have cancelled their appointments because they were afraid to come in," she said.

Bruyère employee John Paquin says he was disgusted by protesters who drove by the Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital honking their horns on Sunday. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Adding to the stress of making it to work on time and without incident, staff and patients at the Lowertown campus were also the subject of a disruptive convoy drive-by on Sunday afternoon, according to John Paquin, who works at the hospital.

"About six vans went around the hospital blasting their horns," he said. "I thought to myself 'that's terrible, it's disgusting that you would even think of doing that.'"