Doctors warn of rise in patients refusing to wear masks

Video report by Deborah McAleese

Doctors have reported a rise in the number of patients and visitors not wearing masks in healthcare settings in Northern Ireland.

The BMA has also expressed concern over people refusing to be tested for Covid-19 before attending hospital appointments and emergency departments.

It said there have been increasing reports of "aggressive behaviour towards our staff when challenging those who refuse to wear masks without a medical exemption".

Dr David Farren, deputy chair of BMA Northern Ireland’s consultants committee said: “We are seeing an increasing number of patients who are refusing to wear face coverings, which remain a requirement in government owned buildings, and are refusing to have a Covid-19 test when attending hospital for assessment or admission.

“I would urge anyone attending hospital who can wear a mask to please do so to protect themselves and others. 

"Staff will challenge this if you do not, and it is unacceptable for this to be met with aggression.

“Testing before assessment or admission is equally important.

"I fully acknowledge that the swabs are not pleasant, but it is essential that anyone who is coming for assessment or admission to hospital is tested if we are to prevent spread of Covid-19 within our hospitals."

Dr Alan Stout, from the BMA GP committee, added: “GPs have worked extremely hard to keep their premises open and Covid staff for both patients and practice staff.

"Increasingly we are being challenged by patients who simply don’t want to wear a mask, not because they have a valid exemption. 

“Our staff and GPs are just trying to do their job and ensure everyone’s safety.

"Having to make special arrangements for people refusing to wear a mask is extremely difficult and time consuming and takes staff away from other tasks that need completed.

"We have some very vulnerable patients attending our surgeries and it is vital that we do everything we can to ensure their safety and confidence."