Photo credit: GoToVan licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist, Member, The Quiet Coalition

People have targeted hospitals across Canada with noisy protests against government ordered pandemic public health measures, such as vaccine passports. Thousands gathered at hospitals to yell and chant, with news and social media showing protestors using airhorns, bullhorns or megaphones, and amplified microphone systems.

Protestors are being condemned for interfering with safe access to healthcare, especially for ambulances and emergency vehicles. But noise impact on patients and loved ones inside the hospitals has been ignored.

As far back as 1999, international public health guidelines have recommended quiet sound levels for hospitals. Noise hinders speech communication between healthcare providers and their patients and interferes with sleep, rest, and recovery.

In the days leading up to these protests, healthcare workers begged organizers to move the locations to city halls or government buildings where public health decisions were made. These pleas were ignored, and more hospital protests are being organized.

The Canadian federal government is planning legislation to make it a criminal offense to block safe access to buildings providing healthcare.

I think there is also a critical need for federal noise control legislation to protect locations where quiet is essential for public health. This includes hospitals, schools, and residential zones.

People have the right to protest.

But there is no place for protest noise at hospitals where people are injured, sick, or dying.