Paramedic says she was refused patio service due to her job, but restaurant disagrees

A Hamilton paramedic says she was refused patio service at a restaurant in Niagara-on-the-Lake because staff assumed her frontline job put her at risk of COVID-19 exposure. The restaurant manager, however, says the refusal had nothing to do with her job.

Manager says staff were simply following protocol

Mandie Purdy is a paramedic who lives in Hamilton. (Submitted)

A Hamilton paramedic says she was refused patio service at a restaurant in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ont. because staff assumed she had been exposed to someone with COVID-19 due to her front-line job.

The business manager disputes her account, however, saying the refusal had nothing to do with her work. She says staff were just following protocol after the customer indicated she may have had close contact with someone who had COVID-19.

Mandie Purdy, 40, said she was waiting for a table at Noble Restaurant at the Prince of Wales Hotel when a hostess started asking screening questions about COVID-19.

Purdy said she automatically started answering before the hostess began, prompting her date to make a joke about her job as a paramedic. Purdy said that is when the hostess told her she couldn't be seated, because her job put her at higher risk of exposure.

Purdy then asked to speak with a supervisor, who also refused to seat her.

Purdy said she wears protection when working, and it's her job to protect the public's health and safety.

Her employer would have called her and asked her to go into isolation if she had been exposed to somebody known to be infected, she said.

"I would never do anything, or go anywhere, if I thought the general public was at risk by dining beside me," Purdy said.

"They said, 'Yeah, I'm sorry but we can't see you.' "

Purdy said she was "dumbfounded" and embarrassed by the situation.

'Nothing to do' with job, manager says

Kelly Exelby, general manager of the Prince of Wales Hotel, said the decision has "nothing to do" with Purdy's job as a paramedic, and staff "in no way discriminate against" front-line workers.

Exelby, who was not present at the time, said Purdy had told staff she may have been in close contact with somebody who had COVID-19 when she was asked screening questions, according to staff reports.

"They were doing what we put in place as protocols," Exelby said.

She said Purdy was refused service because of her answer to that screening question, and staff were just trying to keep customers and their team safe. She said Purdy didn't mention her job as a paramedic until after she was refused service.

There is no policy against paramedics, Exelby said. The hotel offers free room upgrades to front-line workers and brings meals to front-line staff, she said,

But Purdy said she did not say she had been in close contact with COVID-19 prior to being refused service. 

"It was something they assumed because of my profession," she said.

"I don't encounter a lot of COVID positive patients now, but when I do I am in 100 per cent effective PPE. There is NO reason for the general public to be afraid of being around us," she wrote in an email.

In future, Exelby said, the hotel will have discussions around handling these situations.

"We really appreciate all healthcare workers and what they're doing," Exelby said.

"There's definitely nothing against them."