A Victoria man said he was denied access to healthcare in an emergency, despite having a medical exemption from wearing a face mask.
Martin Girard, who lives at Our Place on Pandora Avenue, said he has been susceptible to ear infections for many years. When he felt severe pain indicating another one was coming on, he went to the Royal Jubilee Hospital emergency room the morning of Nov. 17.
Girard said he showed his documents for a legitimate exemption from wearing a face mask, filled out the intake form, and was sent to wait in a COVID-19 isolation room for care where he waited for 50 minutes.
When the doctor came to get him, he said, Girard was asked to wear a mask before an examination would take place.
“I countered that I had an exemption, with proper paperwork. He just told me that he couldn’t proceed because he has kids and that another doctor might show up for the examination,” said Girard, noting he told the doctor he is doubly vaccinated.
After waiting another 50 minutes to see a different doctor, Girard felt he was being deliberately ignored and that ER staff were hoping he’d leave on his own, he said.
“I refused to leave and ended up demanding to talk to someone, but I was ordered outside by the staffer at the front desk, and at that point, I flat out told him to call the police and get me arrested for trespassing because I was not leaving without being examined.”
Security guards escorted him off the premises, he said, and told him he had one chance of walking away – Girard stayed. Police showed up a while later, arrested him, and drove him back to his place of residence.
Girard told the police he’d been in pain for several days and that he hadn’t scheduled an appointment at nearby walk-in clinics due to the volume of calls.
“The police also took the staff’s version and the doctor told them he couldn’t see anything wrong with me – that isn’t true, he didn’t even examine me.”
Police and security tried to mediate a solution where it was then proposed that Girard wear a face shield. “No solution of the like had been proposed by the doctor,” Girard said.
“Specifically, it was proposed I would show up at 7 a.m. the next morning at the security office and that security would do its best to mediate the situation by convincing medical staff to see me with a face shield instead of a face mask.”
Girard wound up being examined the following morning wearing a face shield, however, he said that he remains disturbed by his initial experience since the ear infection he was diagnosed with was serious.
In a statement to Black Press Media, Island Health said privacy laws and its confidentiality policies prevent it from discussing or disclosing details about individual patients or the care they receive.
“We are always concerned when care received does not meet a patient’s expectations, and we take all care complaints seriously. We encourage people with concerns about their care to contact Island Health’s Patient Care Quality Office. All complaints are formally registered, investigated and responded to. This process allows Island Health to constantly evaluate and improve our services, systems and policies.”