April 13, 2021
LETTER TO THE EDITOR — March 2007, Detroit was hosting Wrestlemania. As a young man, I have to admit, yes, I was a wrestling fan. There was nothing that I wanted more than to go to this event; a dream since I was a little kid! Midnight on the eve of tickets going on sale, I sat at my computer, just hoping to be able to grab a few tickets before they sold out (something we are all too familiar with). As soon as I could, I started clicking furiously to get tickets. Error code after error code, I could tell that the system was overwhelmed. I was definitely not the only one trying to get these tickets. I thought, I was different, I needed them, I was a true fan; I must be special — right?
Two hours of clicking through error messages, I was finally able to get a screen to load. However, my dream of floor seats vanished, then my dreams of good seats vanished, and finally, my dream of having two seats together anywhere in the building vanished. I was not no longer able to book tickets; I had missed my opportunity — the system failed!
On reflection, I know now, the system did not fail, the system worked, as it should, it was the demand that was out of proportion. So many people wanted tickets that it could only accommodate so many requests at a time. Anger slowly faded to planning my house party for the event. I got served up some lemons, and I made one heck of a glass of lemonade!
When the COVID-19 vaccines were first announce in Grey and Bruce, I remember the excitement, and the anticipation for the end of this pandemic. The planning, and progress, and the collaboration was something tremendous to see. Chapmans donated freezers, Bruce Power helped with many logistical aspects of the Hub Model, and the public was rallying in anticipation to end this pandemic.
It was at this point that we got served up some lemons. Over 150,000 people wanted their vaccine, and wanted it now. The Province developed phases for vaccine distribution, in order to distribute the vaccine gradually, based on a thorough ethical and scientific model. Unfortunately, many did not accept this model, and many did not agree that they must wait for the vaccine. When the booking system went live, people not yet qualifying for the vaccine began calling to complain; holding up the phone lines to those that truly qualified. People with issues in the provincial booking system began calling — to complain. Professionals, essential workers, not yet eligible for the vaccine wrote and called to complain — holding things up even more for those that truly qualified.
Complaining is one thing, however, I have to manage, on a daily basis, multiple incidents with my staff in which they are sworn at, belittled, harassed and bullied to the point of tears. Having lived through more than a year of this pandemic, I can tell you one thing — the staff here are tired (like everyone else!). The staff have lost hours, days, weeks, and probably months-worth of time. Time lost with their family, friends and more. Birthdays, celebrations with kids, Christmas, and other holidays lost. Just like the rest of the population, what we have had to ensure during this time has been unparalleled. Add in the fact that we are leading the response to this pandemic (with tremendous support form community partners and the public in general), and yet still also have kids in schools, spouses that have lost businesses, sick parents, and personal lives that we must attend to after working many hours of overtime each week — from frontline workers to managers.
This type of language and behaviour directed at our staff is completely unacceptable. Things have gotten to the point that I now have to spend time, away from responding and working on this pandemic, to defending and standing up for my staff. This is something I would do any day of the week, but it is also something that I wish I would never have to think of doing. I wish my full effort could be on my portfolio, but here we are, dealing with bullying, harassment, and cruelty. I also have to remind myself regularly, what it is like to be frustrated, and I do, each time I manage these situations, remind myself — the folks calling using this language are just frustrated, extremely frustrated, and their emotions get the best of them at times. Most, if not all, are unaware of their tone, and language that they are using — but we all need to become aware, we all need to be cordial with each other.
Saying this, I do realize that the majority of our interactions with the public are quite positive and friendly, focusing on problem solving and navigation through this pandemic, however, it still disheartens me to the fact that these abusive calls are growing exponentially with the impatience of getting the vaccine.
Do not get me wrong, we all are fully aware that — THIS IS OUR JOB. However, this is a once-in-a-hundred-year event, and it is not something that is simply brushed off as “another day in the office.” As all of the population know, this has been a very hard year! We are all human. We are all part of the community in some way, and we all care. To hear the calls come in such vile and cruel ways is a hard one to swallow, and one that I will defend at all costs. We need to be in this together, to support each other, to lift each other up when we are down. Kindness, support and patience will get us through this last push.
Let us rally together. Let us end the hate, and turn it in to kind problem solving, finding solutions together, and helping each other. Let us respect the Phases of vaccination and wait patiently for our turn. A stampeded never exits the building, but tramples. An orderly process will get things done in a structured and time efficient manner, where nobody will get trampled or left behind.
One thing that makes me smile however is realizing the amount of people that this dedicated team at the Health Unit have saved. The fact that they are all working so tirelessly to ensure core functions are maintained, while still responding to a pandemic is something that warms my heart, something that clearly tells me, we will move on and be stranger than ever after this pandemic. Believe me when I say, we want this to end, we want to get back to our “normal”, and we are working as hard as we can to make this happen — we just need the help of all.
Everyone that wants the vaccine will get the vaccine — it will just take time. Once we get a large supply of the vaccine, this issue will be a non-issue, but until that time, please, let us be kind and patient, and you will all get the vaccine that you want.
I want everyone to know, COVID-19 may come and go, but our actions during this difficult time will stay with us forever. I strongly urge:
You to think about your actions and words when you talk to others when frustrated – frustration is not permission to be mean and cruel.
Parents to talk openly with your children about the importance of kindness and understanding. Reach out to offer your support to other parents.
Teachers to talk about this with their students and be watchful for bullying in the classroom or playground. When you see, stop it.
Community leaders to speak out on the importance of acceptance, empathy, and kindness
Everyone; stop bullying when you see it
We are in this together, and we must all lean on each other. Now is not the time to get angry and bully each other. Now is the time to carry each other through tough times, knowing that we may need assistance, encouragement and support at some point in the future. Let us collectively fight this pandemic as a united community. The only way to do this is by understanding, and being sympathetic to each other's situation.
We have done a fantastic job so far during COVID-19, but these stories are becoming too common.
Thank you for listening, and please, be kind to one another.
Ian Reich, Interim Director of Operations and Program Development
Grey Bruce Health Unit
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