An RAF sergeant who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan was moved out of a hospital waiting room because staff feared his uniform would upset people from different cultures, it was reported.
Aircraft engineer Mark Prendeville’s treatment was condemned as ‘horrifying’ by military figures and Air Force veterans – but follows a string of incidents in recent years where service personnel were snubbed because of their uniform.
Sergeant Prendeville, 38, was taken to the A&E department at Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent, after chemicals from a fire extinguisher got in to his eyes during a training exercise.
He was then taken to an empty corner of the waiting room before being moved behind a corner by hospital staff, The Sun reported.
In an explanation to his family, hospital workers were said to have claimed ‘they didn’t want to upset people’ because they ‘have lots of different cultures coming in’.
Sergeant Prendeville’s father, Jim, said: ‘Mark was moved because of his uniform – he was told that twice.
The words they used were: “We’ve lots of cultures coming in”.
‘Mark was quite annoyed, but he’s a quiet lad and didn’t want to cause a fuss.’
Mr Prendeville added: ‘He didn’t care about the burns, he felt worse about how he was treated. I was absolutely disgusted when I heard. I don’t know what is so offensive about a uniform.’
Veterans and military figures condemned Sergeant Prendeville’s treatment. Former Chief of the Air Staff Sir Michael Graydon described the incident as ‘disappointing’.
Former RAF navigator Flight Lieutenant John Nichol said he was appalled. ‘This is horrifying,’ he said. ‘You should not be treated differently for wearing a uniform – you should be lorded because you’re wearing uniform.’
A spokesman for East Kent University Hospitals NHS Trust apologised to Sergeant Prendeville for ‘any embarrassment’. In 2008, Zachary Hoyland, a soldier in The Rifles regiment, was ordered to leave a train in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, because he was unable to produce his military ID card, despite being dressed in full uniform.
The conductor allegedly told him: ‘I don’t know what you’re complaining about – it’s not as if you’ve taken a bullet or anything.’
Duane Fahy, of the 1st Battalion of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, tried to buy cigarettes in St Helens, Lancashire, in October last year, but the shop assistant refused to serve him because he was wearing ‘combats’.