Toronto doctor says a local TD branch is turning away health-care workers over COVID-19 fears

Every night at 7:30 p.m., people across Toronto take to their windows and balconies to cheer and show support for frontline workers. Restaurants are banding together to provide hospitals with meals and hotels are opening up rooms so that frontline workers can self-isolate from their families. But as companies iron out policies and evolve best practices for safe operations, some health-care professionals say they’re being denied entry to essential services because of their job.

Dr. Coleman Rotstein, a Toronto doctor, professor, and transplant specialist for the University Health Network, reported a recent incident at a local TD branch at Avenue Road and Brookdale Avenue. According to Rotstein, his daughter was recently told by the bank’s representatives that she wouldn’t be allowed in if she was a health-care worker. 

“My daughter went to the bank,” said Dr. Rotstein, “and when she was entering, they asked her if she was a health-care worker. She said no, but [asked] ‘suppose I was?’ and they said then they wouldn’t allow her into the bank.”

Concerned by this news, Dr. Rotstein got into contact with the branch.

“They said they’d make alternative accommodations for health-care workers like online banking,” recounts Dr. Rotstein, “and that it’s branch-wide [but] I could go to one branch that’s available [to us] at Dundas and University by appointment. In all honesty, if I make appointments, I have to break them because of other pressing situations, and some of the processes I have to get done in the next two or three weeks just can’t be done over the web.”

Various methods of screening customers at the door have been implemented by essential businesses. However, the language and protocols surrounding accessibility for health-care professionals has been of concern for some time now.

“Their perspective is concern for their employees,” said Dr. Rotstein. “I understand that. But health-care workers wear personal protective equipment and screen ourselves all the time. A study was done at Stanford that found that even in asymptomatic health-care workers, the percentage that is positive is 0.3 per cent. That’s very, very low. That’s three in 1,000. You have a greater chance of getting it from someone in the community who is asymptomatic and goes into the bank. [Their policy] just doesn’t stand to reason.” 

TD Bank responds to criticism over screening processes

A TD spokesperson said all customers are being asked to avoid coming into the branch if possible. According to TD’s statement, if an in-person visit is necessary, screening questions are being asked of everyone at the door.

“We have physical distancing standards, based on public health guidelines and advice from our chief medical director, including signs posted and screening questions that ask customers not to enter if they have symptoms of COVID-19, have been exposed to COVID-19, or have been asked to self-isolate due to travel,” read the statement.

Specific questions as to whether or not someone is a health-care worker were not included in TD’s statement.

“If a customer is not able to enter a branch for these reasons, we are helping them one on one, by providing special accommodations to manage their unique circumstances. We apologize that this did not happen for Dr. Rotstein, and for his negative experience.”

The TD spokesperson also said the bank has also set up additional services for health-care workers, including priority phone channel access, and a virtual branch to serve calls exclusively from health-care workers. 

At the time of TRNTO’s interviews with Dr. Rotstein and Carla Hindman, TD manager of corporate and public affairs, TD Bank had not reached out to him. Shortly before this article went to press, TD Bank got in contact with TRNTO to report that “one of our branch banking leaders connected with our customer this afternoon to address his concerns.”

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO