Medical treatment

Pennsylvania trauma survivor unable to wear mask is denied medical treatment

Rayne Barton vividly remembers a day when she was 5 years old, playing with other little girls near the train tracks in the town of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His own house was nearby and his aunt lived around the corner. That day, a large group of teenagers came upon the girls, separated them and attacked them.

They threw Barton on his back into the dirt. Two boys held her legs and another sat on her waist and held her by the elbows.

“There were two boys who put their fingers down my throat, put dirt on my face, my nose, my ears and stomped on my face. They turned me around and started rubbing my face in the dirt where I just couldn’t breathe,” Barton told The Epoch Times. “I felt like I was going to die. I thought that was the end. At 5, that’s what I thought. I didn’t know what was happening. I just knew it was bad, that it hurt and that I was scared to death.

A police report has been made. The incident prompted her parents to leave the neighborhood for a safer place.

But since then, Barton said she never really felt safe. She recalls the assault when she pulls a shirt over her head and it takes too long to get past her face. Forget too restrictive turtlenecks. She was never able to wear a Halloween mask. Snuggling up in bed at night, she makes sure the blanket is clear of her face.

Then COVID-19 hit the scene. His fear was exacerbated by the mandatory masking. Barton couldn’t tolerate the mask so she just stayed home. Her husband did most of the shopping.

She tried making a mask with holes in it so she could breathe, but it didn’t make her more comfortable.

She’s sought advice over the years, but even now, at 62, she keeps her face up and avoids situations that would require her to cover it up.

But she has to go to the doctor. Barton suffers from diabetes, a pacemaker, kidney problems and spinal stenosis. She has been seeing the same group of doctors for 40 years at Penn Medicine, part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn Medicine won’t address Barton’s need to control his face. Instead, they banned her as a patient from all wards except the emergency room.

Barton has a grapefruit-sized cyst on the back of his knee, partially wrapped around a ligament. It’s painful and needs to be removed. In October 2020, she entered the Lancaster Orthopedic Group without a mask for an appointment regarding the cyst. A worker handed him a mask.

“I’m like, ‘Rayne, calm down. You can do it.’ I bring this up because I need this thing taken care of. I put the mask on and literally – I didn’t freak out, like I didn’t cause a scene – I just can’t do it. I thought, ‘I’m leaving. I can not do it. I can not do it.

She had a panic attack, ran outside, ripped the mask off her face and went home. Later, on the phone, she explained her hasty exit.

“I told them that I couldn’t wear a mask because I had been attacked when I was a child. This is probably the first time I’ve said it out loud to someone. He just went out. I mean, I just dropped it. She said, ‘we can’t help you.’

Without a mask, she was unable to get treatment and today the painful cyst remains untreated.

Barton was able to get care via videoconference, but sometimes the doctor has to see a patient in person.

In the spring of 2021, she needed some CT scans. On the first visit, they let her in without a mask.

“I told them what happened to me when I was a kid, and because of that, I can’t put anything on my face,” Barton said.

The second time, a friend drove her to the appointment. Barton was told she would have to wear a mask.

“On the second, they weren’t going to let me in, and I said, ‘Yes, I can be here.’ I didn’t swear, but I got a sharp tongue and I could get the [CT] Scan done, but I had to exit to enter another door which was just down the hall.

This way, she did not come into contact with other patients.

To get treatment, she had to tell the story of the trauma she had kept secret for decades, out loud, to a stranger and in front of a friend who didn’t know Barton’s story until that day.

In December 2021, Barton traveled to Lancaster Neuroscience & Spine Associates to meet with a neurologist to discuss a treatment plan for her spinal stenosis.

“They said I couldn’t come in without a mask because the doctor I was going to see had just come back from chemo and we can’t risk it,” Barton said. “Why does she work if she is so fragile? Why is this my responsibility? I do not understand that.

Barton wanted treatment and refused to leave. The office called the police.

“The cops came and I said I wasn’t leaving. I stay here. I have a right. It’s not my fault what happened to me. I’m tired of being treated like this.

Barton’s husband noticed the police approaching and went inside.

“He’s like, ‘Rayne, what’s going on here?’ I said ‘they won’t let me get treatment because I can’t wear a mask’. He says ‘Rayne, if spinal stenosis isn’t going to kill you, having a heart attack right now will. Let’s get out of here right away. So he convinced me to leave.

A few weeks later, she tried to make an appointment with another Penn Medicine doctor for another topic, but the scheduler told her the computer wouldn’t let her. Barton was no longer able to schedule appointments with his GP, cardiologist or any of his doctors.

In a letter dated Feb. 10, 2022, Penn Medicine informed Barton that the office had canceled a procedure Barton had scheduled for the next day, saying it had tried to accommodate her by offering her a rapid COVID-19 test in her car. If the test was clear, they would put her in a separate waiting room to prevent her from being exposed to others. But the test involves a swab pushed deep into the nose and Barton said she knows she won’t be able to handle it.

“You have refused all accommodations described and indicated your refusal to participate in pre-procedure COVID-19 testing. Absent your cooperation, we are unable to treat you for non-emergency needs,” the letter reads.

A few days later, on February 17, Barton received a letter saying doctors at Lancaster General Health had terminated the provider-patient relationship.

The letter read: ‘You refused our offers of accommodation and were rude and argumentative to staff. We no longer believe that we are able to work together regarding your health care needs. You are prohibited from being on the property or entering any LG healthcare facility with the exception of the Lancaster General Hospital Emergency Department. In the event of a medical emergency, you can always seek treatment at the Emergency Department of Lancaster General Hospital. We will be happy to facilitate the transfer of your records to another provider.

Barton didn’t know where to turn, so she made about 30 to 40 calls to Lancaster General Health CEO John Herman, but was never able to connect with him directly.

This was followed by a March letter from Kathryn Weinrich, executive director of legal services at Lancaster General Health, warning Barton that her calls to Herman were harassment and that she should have no further contact with the organization. She should not call or set foot in any facility related to the University of Pennsylvania Health System, University of Pennsylvania Medical School, Lancaster General Health, and other named satellite offices.

The Epoch Times asked Penn Medicine in an email if it has trauma-informed training or policies in place for working with patients who have experienced traumatic events, and also asked how many patient relationships Penn Medicine terminated due to patient’s failure to comply with COVID-19 Mitigation Requirements.

John Lines, director of public relations and corporate communications at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, issued the following statement: “While we are unable to discuss specific patient situations, we are following CDC guidelines to patients and visitors, including guidelines for accommodations that enable the delivery of effective care while ensuring the safety of all our patients and providers.

Barton has to have his pacemaker checked every four months, but it’s been two years. His prescriptions are running out and none of his doctors are allowed to refill them.

“I don’t take my medication. There’s nothing I can do,” Barton said. “I’m so connected to Penn Medicine. I’ve been under their care and family for 40 years, and if my family can’t take care of me, surely a stranger can’t.

She has neither the energy nor the will to travel further and find new doctors, who will probably have the same masking policy. She wants to stay with the doctors who know her and with whom she has worked for years. It was particularly difficult to lose his long-serving GP. She made the decision to go without treatment and medication.

“If they can call me and tell me to come for treatment without a mask, I will go. But I’m not going to stand up and fight for it anymore. I’m tired. I’m too old to have to fight for medical care.

To follow

Beth Brelje is an investigative reporter covering Pennsylvania politics, the courts, and the Commonwealth’s most interesting and sometimes hidden news. Send her your story ideas: [email protected]