A woman from Saskatoon was told by provincial health authorities that she will not receive kidney dialysis treatments if she refuses to wear a mask. 

Kristine Smith alleges that wearing a mask during her treatments at Victoria Hospital causes her to go into panic due to her claustrophobia.

“I relate it to someone coming up behind me, putting their hand over my face and my nose like a mugging would be. I go into a panic, my heart starts to race. I have dry mouth, all symptoms of claustrophobic reaction,” Smith said.

Until now, Smith had an exemption from mask usage written by her nephrologist but on August 5th, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) told Smith that they have the final say as to whether or not she should wear a mask. 

Since then, Smith has missed five days of dialysis, and was only able to do one session for about two hours before it became unbearable for her. 

Prior to the SHA’s order, Smith was able to get her treatment while isolated and wearing a face shield. 

Without the treatments, Smith’s physicians have told her that toxins in her bloodstream could eventually threaten her life. 

After voicing her frustrations, Smith was told by a hospital Quality Care coordinator that due to her frustrations about the treatment she could no longer visit the hospital and must seek treatment in Saskatoon. 

“The SHA does not refuse anyone treatment. All dialysis patients at the Prince Albert Victoria Hospital satellite unit are required by SHA policy to wear masks during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic,” Vice President of Integrated Northern Health Andrew McLetchie told CTV in a statement.

Smith’s kidneys currently operate at 4% function due to an auto-immune disease she had earlier in her life. 

“I’m so worried about not being able to get my dialysis, my life-sustaining therapy. It’s very important so it’s caused me a lot of stress, a lot,” Smith told CTV.

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