Toronto hospital says masks are mandatory after woman's refusal video garners millions of views
Woman says she was denied service, hospital says its policy is everyone has to wear a mask
Unity Health Toronto is reminding the public that wearing face masks is mandatory in hospital facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, after a woman posted a video online in which she complained that St. Joseph's Health Care Centre denied her service when she refused to wear a mask.
On Saturday, Toronto-area woman Letitia Montana posted a video on Twitter, saying she had gone to the emergency department at St. Joe's for a "suspected broken finger." Now she thinks it is likely just sprained.
"I was asked to wear a mask, which I refused to do," she wrote. "As a result, hospital staff asked me to leave and immediately called 3 security guards to escort me out."
Went into the Emergency Dept. at St Joseph’s Hospital in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Toronto?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Toronto</a> for a suspected broken finger. I was asked to wear a mask, which I refused to do. As a result, hospital staff asked me to leave and immediately called 3 security guards to escort me out. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/filmyourhospital?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#filmyourhospital</a> <a href="https://t.co/7KlDa11udk">pic.twitter.com/7KlDa11udk</a>—@LetitiaMontana
"I have to wear a mask? Otherwise you're going to deny me service if I don't wear a mask?" she asks in the video, while a hospital official in scrubs, gloves and a mask nods.
As of Monday afternoon, the video had been watched over five million times.
In an emailed statement issued Monday afternoon, a provincial spokesperson said that people are required to wear masks when going to a hospital emergency department in Ontario.
"I would like to thank the brave frontline heroes at St. Joseph's Health Centre and across Ontario for putting themselves in harms way to care for us," Health Minister Christine Elliott said in an email. "When seeking care, each of us should follow all protocols in place at hospitals to help protect frontline workers and other patients."
Montana, who describes herself online as an insurance and investment adviser as well as a "truther" and "freedom lover," later posted that the "few times" she had worn a mask she could "hardly breathe" in the summer heat.
"This has lead me to do research on them & what I learned from the science is that they do compromise your health in more ways than one," she wrote.
Later, in an email to CBC Toronto, Montana said: "Whenever I've put on a mask even for a short period, I find it extremely hard to breathe through those things."
A recent World Health Organization study has confirmed that face masks are effective in reducing COVID-19's spread. Provincial health officials and Premier Doug Ford have all been advocating that Ontarians wear masks or a face covering while in situations where physical distancing is not possible.
I will not endanger my own life or that of my son to comply to the demands of some politicians.—@LetitiaMontana
The health professionals at Unity Health, the hospital network that oversees St. Joe's, told CBC News in a statement that masks have to be worn by everyone in the hospital "in order to keep patients, staff and visitors safe.
"This policy follows guidelines set out by Ontario's Ministry of Health based on our best scientific understanding of COVID-19 and how it spreads."
Toronto city council has also made non-medical masks and face coverings mandatory in all indoor public spaces to help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
That temporary bylaw goes into effect across the city as of Tuesday, though officials encouraged residents to begin following the order immediately when it was enacted at city council last week.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto's medical officer of health, made the mask recommendation in a report to city council.
"Our doctor says that it works," Mayor John Tory said last week.
Unity Health also said in its statement that people should seek care when they need it. Anyone going to its hospital sites in Toronto will be asked questions about COVID-19-related symptoms, and also be asked to wear a mask and maintain physical distancing in all parts of the hospital.
"We want to thank staff at St. Joseph's Health Centre and frontline workers across Ontario for caring for our communities," the statement reads.