Woman unable to wear mask due to medical condition says she was turned away from X-ray clinic

A woman who can't wear a face covering due to a medical condition said she was turned away from a medical imagining clinic in Cambridge.

The clinic said the woman couldn't come to her appointment because the staff didn't feel protected.

"I'm flabbergasted," Jamie-Lee Mitchell said about the incident. "I'm like, I have a medical condition."

She told CTV News Kitchener that she went to Cambridge Medical Imaging for an X-ray of her tailbone. When Mitchell told the clinic she was unable to wear a mask, she said she was turned away. She said she provided a doctor's note and has no COVID-19 symptoms.

"I understand there's still got to be maybe some kind of safety precaution in play," Mitchell said. "That's not my fault. As a person, I'm coming to you for help."

The clinic declined to do an on-camera interview, but the manager told CTV News Kitchener over the phone that it's a small facility that's had a hard time getting "advanced personal protective equipment" to accommodate a close-contact X-ray. The manager also said they referred Mitchell back to her chiropractor, who ordered the test, and suggested she contact the hospital. The manager added they have to protect their staff at all costs.

"It's their first obligation, to protect their employees," said Richard Powers with Rotman School of Management. "If they can't do that under the situation, unfortunately the client is going to have to go elsewhere."

Powers said it's reasonable in situations where there are other care options. He added it's also about protecting other patients coming into the clinic.

Cara Zwibel, a lawyer from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said she's concerned that someone was denied a medical test.

"It's not required that they move mountains, but they do have to take certain steps to try and reach reasonable accommodation," Zwibel said.

Mitchell suggested anyone in a similar situation should call ahead.

"Just to verify that you are accepted there, because if you're not, it will just de-escalate this entire situation from happening to anyone else," she said.

Experts predict there may be more conflicts in the future, since masks are going to be a regular part of life for the time being. Some said there's a possibility of a Human Rights Tribunal, though the first step would be to try to work with service providers to find solutions.