OPINION: Protest held in front of doctor’s home was appalling

Dr. Sudit Ranade

It was Thanksgiving of 2020 and Lambton’s medical officer of health was on one of his weekly morning radio calls, providing a ‘community update’ on COVID-19.

I listened curiously as host Sue Storr interrupted Dr. Sudit Ranade (whom she was interviewing via phone) and asked him to open his front door.

Turns out, it was Ranade’s birthday, and the radio station had arranged to deliver cupcakes and balloons to his home, right in the middle of the interview.

“I think his kids’ reaction was priceless because they were the ones screaming,” Storr recalled, with a laugh.

It was a thank-you gesture for a guy who’d been thrust into the spotlight and tasked with navigating the community through an unprecedented pandemic.

You could hear the gratitude in his voice — one that has become a fixture to many who tune in for his briefings, fielding questions on all things COVID-19.

“We just thought, ‘You know what? The guy’s done a lot through COVID-19. Let’s just surprise him with a little something,” Storr said. “I think he was happy to be recognized, but then it was right back to work.”

Fast forward to last week, when the scene outside the doctor’s doorstep turned ugly.

A group of about 50 ‘protesters’ armed with signs and voice amplifiers marched up and down his street, and even rang the doorbell at the family home, The Observer reported.

Members of the group told reporters they were angry about child vaccines and mask mandates. Most wouldn’t give their names.

“He’s got a young family,” Storr said. “You want to protest? Not on somebody’s front lawn. There’s just no respect.”

During an interview last week, Ranade told me the protesters had cross the line of common decency.

“There are lots of ways to make your voices heard without making people feel unsafe, and that’s what’s happening,” he said. “It’s upsetting for me and my whole family.”

“But I also still have a job to do.”

Asked how he’s doing, he admitted: “We’re very tired. We’re all stressed out. But it’s everyone — we are no exception.”

That sentiment was echoed by Andrew Taylor, Lambton’s public health services general manager.

“We have a tremendous workforce; they’re resilient, they’re committed — but they’re burnt out,” he said. “There’s lots of fatigue that sets in, and we have to be concerned about the mental health and wellbeing of our own team.”

Between mass immunizations, contact tracing, fielding the COVID-19 call centre, and keeping up with ever-changing policies from the province, “we are still going seven days a week,” Taylor said. “And you can imagine that strain.

“It’s the first time that I have seen staff resign, and leave with 15+ years experience after saying, ‘I’ve had enough.’”

With news of the Omicron variant and even more strain on the health care system looming, Taylor admitted, “There’s really no light at the end of the tunnel.

“The bow is going to break at some point.”

The days of pot-banging and thank-you parades may have passed, but our health-care workers haven’t slowed down; they’re still in the trenches, working tirelessly to keep the community safe and informed.

Let’s hope they find some peace and rest this holiday.

And unless you’re showing up with a thank-you sign or Christmas carol — stay off their lawn.