A security guard who works at multiple hospitals in Metro Vancouver says numerous anti-maskers and anti-vaccine advocates make some hospital staff feel unsafe while on the job.
"I see that they're usually the ones who are causing most of the security calls."
The man, who we will call Alex, works as a security guard at various Metro Vancouver hospitals. His name has been changed to protect his privacy. However, he verified his identity and employment with multiple credentials with Vancouver Is Awesome during a Jan. 19 Zoom interview.
Alex said the lion's share of calls to his security team is related to people who refuse to comply with B.C.'s mask mandate or who have issues with other COVID-19 rules. Many of these individuals are also unvaccinated, which he finds particularly troubling when they visit a hospital and are ill. Most of the altercations are verbal but sometimes they become violent.
"We've also had serious incidents where you know, people yell at nurses...they are saying racial slurs, trying to kick us [and] bite us," he explained. "So it's a lot of different things that we're seeing here."
In some instances, Alex noted that patients fall under the Mental Health Act, which means that security may assist in having them treated in an involuntary process. At times, people who refuse to wear a mask or haven't received a vaccine fall under this umbrella—but there are numerous individuals who don't meet this criterion and create significant issues.
"You get people [who are not experiencing mental illness and] are just yelling, swearing, or getting mad or, you know, they're impatient. [People] who are just causing a ruckus for whatever reasons," he explained.
In regard to doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff, Alex noted that these disruptive individuals make "their jobs so much harder."
Nurses and doctors, said Alex, are not at work "to get sworn at or get punched. Their job is to treat people and these anti-maskers are taking away from that," he emphasized.
The security guard believes anti-vaccine advocates "are crowding the hospitals" after they get sick from "their own choices." Alex added he can see why some health care workers might be leaving their jobs due to encounters with vocal opposition to the province's pandemic guidance.
How often does the security officer need to enforce the mask rule with an irate anti-masker?
"Daily. Sometimes several times a day," remarked the exasperated security guard.
Despite the way some anti-vaccine advocates act while visiting the facilities where he works, Alex noted that health care workers try their best to be nice to them. And the security guard has a message for vocal opponents of pandemic guidance, too.
"If you’re an anti-vaxxer and got COVID-19 and are now very Ill, do us all a favour and be respectful towards hospital staff at the very minimum.
"If you can’t do that, just don’t come to the hospital because you make their job so much harder than it needs to be."
Vancouver Coastal Health told V.I.A. in an emailed statement that providing a safe environment for staff, patients, and visitors is the top priority for its security teams.
"Due to the requirements of some of our COVID Testing and Immunization Centres and acute sites, we have had to significantly increase our security resources to support staff, patients, and the public at these locations," notes the health authority.
"As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have an impact on everyone’s health and well-being, our security teams have also noticed an increase in the number of challenging interactions taking place at many of our sites. All our security staff are well trained in de-escalation techniques and violence prevention and awareness and are fully equipped to handle situations as they arise.
"We ask for everyone’s patience, understanding and cooperation during these very challenging times. Our goal is to ensure everyone’s safety who attends our sites."