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Unvaccinated B.C. man seeking medical help claims walk-in clinic turned him away

Click to play video: 'Unvaccinated patients turned away from Enderby clinic' Unvaccinated patients turned away from Enderby clinic
There's concern that people who have not been vaccinated have been turned away from a walk-in medical clinic in Enderby, even though the province has said that essential services will remain available to all. Jules Knox reports. – Aug 26, 2021

A B.C. man says he was turned away from a walk-in health clinic near his community because he isn’t vaccinated.

In an interview with Global News, Ryan Keehn of Sicamous says he was visiting the clinic in Enderby after doing some hot tub maintenance when some chlorine splashed into his left eye.

Keehn said he was hoping to see a doctor the next day, but was instead left stunned when a receptionist told him that he “was not allowed in because I don’t have my vaccinations, my COVID shots.”

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What happened shouldn’t have happened, according to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.

On its website, the college has a page dedicated to treating unvaccinated patients.

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“While the majority of eligible British Columbians have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to date, there are still patients who have chosen not to receive it for personal reasons,” reads the page.

“Registrants must ensure unvaccinated patients are given the same access to care as vaccinated patients. It would be indefensible from an ethical point of view for a registrant to require documented proof that a patient has been vaccinated as a prerequisite for attending their office.

“However, it is reasonable for a registrant to request that patients report their vaccine status to them. Once aware of a patient’s vaccine status, registrants should manage appointment times in a way that does not compromise the health of other patients or their medical office staff.”

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Keehn said he was shocked at being turned away.

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“So I was refused medical care in my own province, in a local community, because of my vaccination status,” he said. “And I was just blown away by that.”

Keehn said he quickly began thinking, “and I start getting worried about where our country is going, discriminating against a group of people, like causing a two-tiered system of citizens almost.”

Not being vaccinated, Keehn said he realizes he won’t be taking his kids to the theatres to watch movies, take his wife out on a date or go to the local pub for a pint.

But he did say essential services are still available for every Canadian, including medical services.

“I was denied medical care,” said Keehn. “So, to me, it clearly seems like the medical walk-in clinic is going against the rules.”

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Contacted by Global News, Interior Health said it couldn’t comment, as it wasn’t an Interior Health clinic.

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Global News also reached out to the clinic. A sign on the clinic’s door says it is closed until Aug. 30.

Keehn said prior to visiting the walk-in clinic, he had the option of visiting a hospital in nearby Salmon Arm, but didn’t want to clog up the hospital because it wasn’t an emergency.

Further, Keehn said he was told to visit the emergency department at the hospital.

“That’s troubling that they’re pushing people towards the emergency room who don’t necessarily need emergency facilities, or emergent care,” said Keehn. “They’re plugging up resources.”

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He added “being refused access to non-essential services is one thing — which ain’t right in my opinion. It’s completely wrong and it’s discriminatory.

“But if we start getting refused to enter into essential services, that is scary stuff.”

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He also said “B.C. residents need to stand together, whether you’re vaccinated or unvaccinated. I believe that all of us need to stand together and we need to fight for our rights and freedoms that we have here as Canadian citizens.”

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In an email to Global News, the Ministry of Health said “walk-in clinics are equipped and staff are trained to protect themselves and other patients from the risk of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases, so an unvaccinated patient who needs health care should generally not be turned away from a walk-in clinic, based only on their vaccination status.”

The email continued, saying “however, depending on other details of the situation, it may be more appropriate for a patient to be seen in an emergency department than a walk-in clinic.”

The ministry also said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry spoke recently about proof of vaccination not being required for essential services, which includes health-care services.

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“No, these will not be applying to faith-based services, nor will it apply to essential services like health care services,” said Henry. “It also, as you can see, doesn’t apply to retail and grocery stores, areas where we don’t see a lot of transmission and where we have other measures in place, and they are essential services.

“What it applies to is those discretionary, those social events, the arts, sports, the things that we want to and need to get back to but can be a risk, so indoor group environments. That’s why we picked the places that we have, because these are discretionary. They are not essential services.”

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