Province introduces legislation to create ‘safe zones’ around hospitals

New legislation has been introduced to protect the health workforce, patients and families.

The legislation, which makes amendments to the Public Health Act, 1994, is set to provide the ability to create and enforce safe access zone around hospitals.

Health Minister Paul Merriman said it’s important that the people coming into healthcare facilities are protected.

“Not just the employees, but the patients, also any family members that are coming to visit,” he said. “We’ve seen some disturbing protests outside of our healthcare facilities, and it’s very upsetting for the healthcare workers. We want to be able to make sure that they are able to go back and forth to work and be able to project the people that are in there.”

The legislation is being introduced so that patients and health care providers are protected from harassment. A 50-metre safe access zone would prevent sidewalk protests near hospitals that could potentially result in delays or harassment for people going into facilities.

Merriman explained what harassment could possibly look like.

“I think harassments would be somebody that is not allowing access. If somebody is blocking an ambulance, for example, just because they are protesting or they are slowly walking back and forth in the street, there inhibiting somebody’s life,” he said. “We want to make sure people have very easy access to the healthcare system. This is unfortunate that we have to do something like this to protect our healthcare workers because we have a very open healthcare system, but we need to make sure that they can get to and from the hospitals.”

He noted that people will still be allowed to picket or protest in specific areas.

“It’s the people that are in and around what we are dealing with right now; they are causing some concerns,” he said. “We have seen some provinces that have had some extreme measures where people are going into the hospital and protesting, and that’s disruptive for everybody. The healthcare workers have been working extremely hard; they don’t need people coming in and disrupting what they are going to help patients.”

Merriman added that they understand people have the right to protest, but people also have the right to access the healthcare system in a timely matter.

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