A reader has written in to share his experiences of getting treatment for his toe over the last few months, an experience dominated by masks.
Last September 29th, I went into a hospital up in the North East to have my big toe joint replaced with a silastic one.
I’ve never worn a mask anywhere and do not possess one. And when I bowled into the ward early in the morning, without a mask, nobody said a word to me. The nurse who was assessing me agreed when I said that mask wearing was a lot of nonsense, but said she would be sacked if she were to say that openly. She burst into tears when I sympathised with her and she said the strain was getting to her. Many of the staff on the (largely empty) ward agreed that masks were pointless, but they dare not dissent. The surgeon turned up wearing a serious-looking surgical mask and his couple of side-kicks were also wearing masks, but cheaper-looking versions. By this time I was in a hospital gown lying on a bed. None of them said a word about my being bare-faced – so to speak. The porter was the only person who handed me a mask and insisted I wear it otherwise he refused to push me down to the operating theatre. I offered to walk but he was having none of it. I held the thing up to my face and he seemed satisfied.
I’ve been back a few times to various hospitals since the operation to see nurses and others and have been shouted at about not wearing a mask and subjected to considerable rudeness and hostility from the staff and other patients who have ganged up on me. On a couple of occasions I’ve covered my mouth with a silk polka dot scarf which seems to satisfy all concerned.
I have tried to obtain a consultation with the surgeon since he did the operation because I am not satisfied that he’s got it right. I was promised a “telephone consultation” with the great man, which turned out to be with his young female registrar who was less than sympathetic and, as she could not see my foot, was of limited help. I told her I wanted the surgeon who did the operation to have a look at it, because the orthotic specialist I’d seen a week earlier (without mask) advised that the surgeon should see the joint because he was concerned the toe did not seem to be “on straight”.
The registrar said the surgeon was not offering “face to face consultations due to the Covid pandemic”. I said I couldn’t understand why not, seeing as he could be masked up and in full anti-virus outfit if he was concerned about catching it. I asked if he was still doing private operations and whether if I paid he would see me. She replied that she knew nothing about his private practice, with the clear implication that she did not want to know either. She made it apparent, by her manner, that she thought I was being a nuisance, but agreed to ask the surgeon if he would arrange a face-to-face consultation.
Yesterday I got a copy of a letter from the registrar to my GP, saying the surgeon “has agreed on this occasion to review [me] in person…”
The letter ended: “On previous visits [he] has declined to wear a face covering but is not medically exempt from doing so. We would kindly ask [him] that he complies with hospital policy and wears a suitable face covering when attending his appointment, otherwise he may not be seen.”
It is not an exaggeration to say that the whole mask-wearing thing causes me “extreme distress”, which in law is enough to exempt me. But the NHS is not concerned about that. They really mean it when they say we have to “protect the NHS”.