BC human rights complaint filed against Fraser Health over N95 mask ban

Feb 8 2022, 6:01 pm

A BC resident has filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal against Fraser Health’s policy that prohibits hospital patients and visitors from using N95 masks.

The complaint was filed by Lena Patsa in January. As someone who has underlying health conditions and is more vulnerable to the severe effects of COVID-19, Patsa told Daily Hive that she found Fraser Health’s policy “ridiculous and dangerous.”

The Vancouver resident goes to the hospital for bloodwork once a month, and she chooses to wear an N95 respirator based on federal guidelines and recommendations from medical experts across the country. However, she says that whenever she goes to a Fraser Health institution, she’s had to argue to be able to use her N95 respirator instead of the medical mask that they provide.

One incident took place when she had surgery on Christmas eve.

“I had to fight with the intake clerk when I went for my surgery to keep my N95 on,” Patsa explained. “And the response that I got from her was, she thought it was more dangerous to her wearing an N95 versus the medical mask that she was trying to give me to replace it with.”

The clerk even brought in a nurse to try to convince her that what she was doing was wrong, Patsa added.

Patsa says she’s asked the people manning the hospital entrances why it matters if she wears an N95 mask and their reasoning is that they don’t know where her mask has been.

The World Health Organization and PHAC have both recognized that the COVID-19 virus spreads through small respiratory droplets and aerosols when a person breathes, coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings, which is why Patsa is confused by this reasoning.

Fraser Health’s website currently says visitors will be provided with a medical mask when they visit. There are no specifics on N95 respirators.

Daily Hive reached out to the health authority for comment on the complaint.

“I can tell you that at present, Fraser Health has not been formally notified of the complaint filing by the Tribunal and accordingly no proceeding has commenced,” said Curtis Harling, a spokesperson for Fraser Health, in an email to Daily Hive. “If and when that occurs, we will review the particulars of the complaint and respond at that time.”

Patsa says she has a complaint number but knows the process will take a while. In the meantime, she has reached out to the BC Human Rights Clinic for legal advice.

Prior to filing the complaint, Patsa also started a change.org petition calling on BC health authorities to stop forcing people to replace their N95 respirators with medical masks. As of Tuesday, it has over 600 signatures with a goal of 1,000.

Meanwhile, the BC Human Rights Tribunal is also fielding complaints from the opposite side of the debate. In January, the Tribunal dismissed a complaint from a grocery shopper who alleges Loblaw Inc. discriminated against him when he went shopping without a mask.

Isabelle DoctoIsabelle Docto

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