What if you can’t wear a mask?

Hos­pi­tal re­quir­ing ev­ery­one cover their face grants man ex­emp­tion

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Front Page - AL­LAN BENNER THE ST. CATHARINES STAN­DARD

John Mar­tynuk said he felt as though he was “be­tween a rock and a hard place,” when he vis­ited the St. Catharines hos­pi­tal for dial­y­sis treat­ment this week.

Mar­tynuk, a 69-year-old St. Catharines man who has sur­vived both can­cer and heart dis­ease, said he was at log­ger­heads with Ni­a­gara Health staff dur­ing the visit Thurs­day over a pol­icy im­ple­mented this week re­quir­ing ev­ery­one who en­ters hos­pi­tal fa­cil­i­ties to wear masks.

He said he ap­pre­ci­ates the need to pro­tect peo­ple from the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and would hap­pily wear a mask if he could.

But Mar­tynuk said he can’t phys­i­cally do so.

Wear­ing masks, he said, al­most im­me­di­ately makes him “ex­tremely nau­seous … to the point of vom­it­ing.

“Un­for­tu­nately, phys­i­cally I can’t wear one without throw­ing up,” he said.

Ni­a­gara Health has since apol­o­gized to Mar­tynuk and taken steps to ac­com­mo­date his needs.

But im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing his last dial­y­sis treat­ment, he said, he was left won­der­ing how he would be able to re­ceive his next one sched­uled for Satur­day.

Al­though he was ul­ti­mately per­mit­ted to re­ceive his 3 1/2hour dial­y­sis treat­ment dur­ing his last visit, Mar­tynuk said he was told he would not be per­mit­ted back into the hos­pi­tal for his next visit un­less he was wear­ing a mask.

He said a hos­pi­tal mem­ber was adamant there is “no wig­gle room” re­gard­ing the re­quire­ment to wear masks — de­spite Min­istry of Health guide­lines for the use of masks that ad­vises peo­ple who have trou­ble breath­ing not wear them.

“Since I have dial­y­sis three times weekly, it presents a ma­jor prob­lem,” he said.

Mar­tynuk, who says past surg­eries left him with only one par­tially func­tion­ing kid­ney, was ter­ri­fied by the im­pli­ca­tions of miss­ing a dial­y­sis treat­ment — “the end re­sult could be my demise.”

“I’ll prob­a­bly be­come very ill … I know this virus go­ing around is far more se­ri­ous than my prob­lem, but my prob­lem is

se­ri­ous to me,” Mar­tynuk said.

“In the end, some form of com­pas­sion might have been ap­pre­ci­ated.”

On Fri­day, af­ter The Stan­dard con­tacted Ni­a­gara Health re­gard­ing Mar­tynuk’s con­cerns, he said hos­pi­tal man­age­ment promptly got hold of him to apol­o­gize and as­sure him his needs will be ac­com­mo­dated.

Mar­tynuk said he was told the hos­pi­tal will place him in a sep­a­rate room while he re­ceives his dial­y­sis treat­ments, and he will be pro­vided with a let­ter he can bring with him while vis­it­ing the hos­pi­tal ex­plain­ing why he will not be wear­ing a mask.

Ni­a­gara Health is­sued a state­ment re­gard­ing the com­plaint, too.

“We are sorry if there was any mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion about there be­ing no ex­cep­tions in­volv­ing wear­ing of masks in the hos­pi­tal,” the state­ment says.

“If any­one com­ing to the hos­pi­tal is un­able to wear a mask for med­i­cal rea­sons, we will work with them to come up with a plan to ac­com­mo­date their needs, while also en­sur­ing in­fec­tion pre­ven­tion con­trol mea­sures are in place at all times.”

In ad­di­tion to ad­vis­ing that peo­ple with dif­fi­culty breath­ing should not wear masks, min­istry rec­om­men­da­tions also ad­vise against their use by chil­dren un­der two years old, or any­one who is un­able to re­move them without as­sis­tance.

BOB TYMCZYSZYN TORSTAR

John Mar­tynuk needs dial­y­sis three times a week at a hos­pi­tal. Masks make him nau­seous, so he will get treat­ment in a sep­a­rate room.

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