Man Told At Surgery, No Mask, No Entry.
“Confused, angry and embarrassed” is how one local man has described his personal experience of being refused entry to his GP surgery in Newcastle for not complying with their mask-wearing policy writes Laura Barr.
The man who wishes to remain anonymous told Down News that due to health reasons he believes he should be exempt from wearing a mask, a fact that his own Doctor is aware of but he was still refused entry to the surgery building.
“Earlier in the week I was scheduled to have a physio appointment which I had been waiting on for quite some time” he said.
“Due to my health needs, this appointment was really important and not something that should be missed.
“I was waiting outside at the front door and spoke to the receptionist through the intercom system. She asked if I had a mask to put on and I told her that no, that I was exempt.
“She said I would not be allowed entry into the building without a mask.
“I felt so let down and really confused given that people with certain disabilities and medical needs are exempt from wearing masks.”
The patient added that they were not sure how their future appointments with the surgery could continue if this were the message they were sending out to vulnerable patients.
SDLP Slieve Croob Councillor Hugh Gallagher said that throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic individuals with hidden and visible disabilities have been and are still being discriminated against.
Cllr Gallagher, who works as a Social Worker ,added: “I have had a local constituent contact me with a story of being told it doesn’t matter if you have a medical reason not to wear a mask, we can’t let you into the shop.
“The next day, the same person was told that they could enter the store by another employee.”
Cllr Gallagher explained that this was purely down to poor education on the shops part and that the correct information was not being passed down from management level.
“Within our community, there is a wide and varying range of individual disabilities.
“As a society, we must ensure no-one is made to feel embarrassed to say they are unable to wear a mask for health reasons.
“Visually impaired and hard of hearing individuals must be taken into consideration as communication is vital and with a face covering this can reduce and hamper basic day-to-day living.
“I urge those who can wear a mask to do so and those unable to, to not feel embarrassed or fearful of saying so.”
Down News contacted Disability Action NI outlining the ordeal the man in our story experienced.
In their response they said that a “simple approach to this is for everyone to be kind to each other”.
Orla McCann from the charity commented: “Disability Action encourages everyone who can wear a face mask to do so to protect themselves, their families and others.
“We as a society, however, need to recognise that for some disabled people to wear a face covering could cause genuine risk to their individual health and safety.
“The Government Guidance on this has always been clear that there are exemptions to this regulation.
“Disabled people should not be made to fear intimidation or discrimination, nor should someone feel the need to disclose their personal circumstances or to carry documentation to prove that they are exempt.
“There are options available for those who would prefer to carry some form of an exemption notice, notably developed by disability organisations.
“A simple approach to this is for everyone to be kind to each other.”