What if you can’t wear a mask?
Hospital requiring everyone cover their face grants man exemption
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.
John Martynuk needs dialysis three times a week at a hospital. Masks make him nauseous, so he will get treatment in a separate room.