A hospital in Kent has apologised after an RAF sergeant was repeatedly asked to move out of sight of other patients in case his military uniform caused offence.
Aircraft engineer Mark Prendeville was “dumbfounded” when hospital staff twice relocated him, allegedly explaining that his camouflage combat uniform “might upset people” because “we have all kinds of different cultures coming in”.
The 38-year-old father-of-one has served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia and was taken to the Accident and Emergency unit of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent after chemicals from a fire extinguisher got in his eyes during a training exercise at RAF Manston.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Mark’s father Jim Prendeville, 63, who also served in the armed forces, said he was “disgusted” by the way his son was treated.
One of the staff asked him if he would stand around the corner so he wouldn’t be seen by other people in case it may upset them because he was in uniform. He went round the corner not to make a fuss but then another member of staff asked him to move again in case anyone saw him because he was in uniform.
He said ‘why should I move’, and they said because your uniform might upset people, we have all kinds of different cultures coming in and you might upset them. The way they treat our servicemen – they’re willing to put their lives on the line and they’re treated like lepers when they go to A&E.
Appalling behaviour by a Kent hospital in seperating injured serving Sgt in RAF from other patients in case of causing offence PATHETIC
— Nicholas Soames (@NSoames) September 26, 2015
A number of veterans and military figures have spoken out against Prendeville’s treatment and the hospital has since apologised to the Sergeant for causing him “any embarrassment”.
A spokesman for East Kent University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust added:
A member of the armed forces in uniform attended our A&E and was asked by a member of staff if he wanted to sit inside the department rather than the waiting room. This employee was acting in good faith because previously, there had been an altercation between a member of the public and a different member of the armed forces in uniform.
[The hospital trust is] absolutely clear that members of Her Majesty’s armed forces, whether in uniform or not, should not be treated any differently to any other person. We are now making this point clear to all our members of staff and will seek to make sure that this never happens again.
Sgt Prendeville was treated for the chemicals in his eyes and prescribed drops. He is expected to make a full recovery.