A Vernon man was issued two fines by RCMP Sunday, Feb. 7, after refusing to abide by Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s mandatory mask mandate. Although, in a video shared to social media, he claims the face shield he was wearing was sufficient.
Police were called around 2:45 p.m. to deal with an individual who refused to abide by the mandatory COVID-19 protocols, but Vernon North Okanagan RCMP said the man left the premises after they attempted to have him comply.
Media relations officer Const. Chris Terleski said the same man contacted police around 6:40 p.m. expressing his concerns. He was once again explained the COVID-19 protocols and was warned that should he return without following VJH’s protocols, he could face fines and would be removed from the property.
The man returned again around 9 p.m. wearing a face shield and carrying his smartphone filming the event.
Ryan Bentson, 53, who had a double lung transplant in 2011, said in the video he shared to social media that he was exempt from wearing a medical mask and refused to put a mask on when asked by hospital staff.
The more than three-minute-long video shows Bentson arguing with hospital staff and RCMP stating face shields and masks are the same and that his wearing of the face shield has never been an issue before at VJH. Bentson alleged when he was in hospital earlier that day, he had been assaulted by a pair of security guards.
In the video, Bentson says he’s worn the face shield to hospital appointments before and it hasn’t been an issue. The Emergency Program Act mask mandate order states “a face shield is not a substitute for a mask as it has an opening below the mouth.”
The officer, who had previously spoken with Bentson, again gave him the opportunity to comply, Terleski said.
“When it became clear the individual was not going to abide by the requirements, the officer arrested the man and removed him from the property,” RCMP said in a statement.
Bentson was issued two fines and, he said, was handcuffed, put into a police car, and was driven home where he was released.
“Our health-care professionals have a responsibility to ensure that regulations mandated by the provincial health order are followed in order to safeguard all patients and members of the public,” Terleski said.
“Our emphasis has always been to encourage compliance of COVID-19 restrictions through education and awareness,” Terleski said. “However, when required we will take the reasonable and necessary enforcement action to support the Public Health Order and safeguard members of the public.”
Bentson, who goes to VJH once a month for blood work, missed both scheduled appointments Sunday, and declined to go back to VJH Monday for a scheduled breathing test.
“I don’t feel safe going to the hospital anymore,” said Bentson, adding Sunday’s visits have left him “stunned, shocked and shaken.”