Two Interior Health staff talk about the ramifications caused by those who choose to refuse COVID-19 protocols. (Rahmat Gul - AP file photo)

Two Interior Health staff talk about the ramifications caused by those who choose to refuse COVID-19 protocols. (Rahmat Gul - AP file photo)

Behind the Mask: Not following COVID-19 protocol causes more work for Interior Health, staff says

‘Our job is to help people’

A cartoon caught my eye on Facebook. It shows a man backing away from a hypodermic needle (filled with the COVID-19 vaccine) with a look of horror on his face — and he says “There is NO way THAT is going into my body!”

Next frame shows him in a hospital bed with a ventilator in his trachea, keeping him alive and breathing.

According to staff at an Okanagan Hospital — whose identities have been withheld for privacy and employment security purposes — extreme anti-vaxxers, when requiring surgery have even refused the COVID screening test questions and subsequently the vaccine itself.

“It’s very easy to answer a couple questions — like, have you travelled recently. It’s also very simple to take a quick test that will put the surgical team’s mind at ease, use less PPE, and be simpler. If the patient is COVID-positive, any surgery is harder on the body and poses much more risk” says a medical professional at a hospital in the Okanagan.

They continue to share: “when the protective processes are refused to be followed it creates a lot more work for all of us, affecting the post-operative recovery team, impacting everyone in the ward. It affects where they are placed as they will be treated as COVID-positive for the duration of their stay. Whether someone ‘believes’ in COVID or not isn’t the issue. The issue is following hospital protocol to ensure everyone’s safety including all patients and staff. It even changes the process for patient porters, the operating room cleaners and the ward cleaners.”

When surgery is done on someone who is COVID-positive, it requires extra effort and more PPE (personal protective equipment). It is not an option to deny anyone life-saving surgery. As you can see, it has a domino effect and adds to the stress of all medical staff.

“Our job is to help people. The stress and anxiety created by a patient who refuses anything COVID related for some misinformed reason is not okay.”

It’s not just hospital environments that have been impacted. Consider the long-term care staff. Some of the facilities have resorted to the way it used to be, having staff change out of street clothes, (including shoes) and putting on their uniforms at work. They work with a very vulnerable sector and take extra precautions to protect them.

Their workload has been increased and they have been working double and triple time as there are fewer part-timers or casuals to draw from in long-term care. The responsibilities have changed too, with some LPNs taking on some of the RN’s duties (due to lack of staffing, which is a provincewide problem)

Now that things have opened up a bit, all visitors are screened and have to show proof of both vaccinations. Those who refuse to comply are not allowed in and sometimes families become angry and take it out on the staff who are already stressed and overworked. Frequently at the end of their shift, staff are physically exhausted and emotionally drained.

An LTC nurse told me, “When it comes to a pandemic we need to follow the rules because if the rule is to fit for one, then it’s got to fit for all.”

I think we can all appreciate how difficult this pandemic has been on healthcare workers on every level. I would like to say a huge heartfelt thank you to everyone who helps to keep us safe in our health care facilities.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, as it helps in understanding the challenges you face on a daily basis. You are doing important work and are making a positive difference.

We can all make a positive difference by getting our COVID shots, and maintaining caution as we all come out of this challenging time together.

Carole Fawcett is a Counsellor, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Freelance Writer www.wordaffair.com. Behind The Mask is a series that takes a look at some of the hardships, achievements and unintended consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have a pandemic story to share, please contact her at flower1@shaw.ca