Is this discrimination against a cancer patient and his family? It feels like it.

Don't judge a book by its cover

Don’t judge a book by its cover

*UPDATE – this has now been resolved with profuse apologies from the hotel*

Here we report on the Iberostar Grand Hotel Mencey in Tenerife.

This morning this hotel reduced Henry to tears. That’s not easy to do. He has had needles thrust in his chest, regular injections in his spine, he has had high levels of vein-dissolving chemotherapy, he has had blood and plasma transfusions, he has had his hair burnt out by his medicine. He has had disfiguring steroids that have swollen his face and body and others that have made him unable to run, sometimes even to walk. He has fought all this with as much patience as he can muster, which is a lot. He has not faced meanness until today. It was the meanness that brought on the tears.

Today he tried to go for a swim with his brother in our posh hotel – the Iberostar Grand Hotel Mencey. He’s a guest here. His bed did not come cheap. But we’ve had a very hard year and this is Henry’s first big holiday since he was hospitalised on New Year’s Eve 2012. The hotel decided we could not. Henry would be allowed on his own but not with his brother or both his parents.

Because of his leukaemia, Henry has little tolerance to the sun. There is an indoor pool, and an outdoor pool that has no shade at all. We chose this hotel because it would give us options – to avoid the heat of the sun when necessary.

Iberostar Mencey's unshaded outdoor pool

Iberostar Mencey’s unshaded outdoor pool

But when we asked for a short swim in the indoor pool, as it is not safe for Henry to swim too long in the direct sun, we were told the indoor pool was for adults only (a fact not made clear on the website). The pool is empty much of the time. Even though it’s a 5-star hotel the staff were totally inflexible. Henry’s kindly Uncle G, who has contacts in the hotel trade, made some requests behind the scenes and we received a call from reception and told our use of the indoor pool would be ‘no problem’.

Family permission withdrawn

Family permission withdrawn. Looking into the indoor pool.

We had a 20 minute swim and the boys were quiet and well-behaved. Two days later we returned to the indoor pool and our permission to swim as a family had been withdrawn. Apparently a fellow-guest had complained. The hotel manager said he had explained to this guest that the hotel had made an exception for us because our child has cancer, but the guest had said that this was not her problem – it was ours.

The hotel decided to prioritise this complainant’s wishes over ours.

We have, overall, been lucky on our travels when we have needed some flexibility. This is one of the few things that helps you through the grinding misery of childhood cancer. The Grand Hotel Mencey – one of the jewels of Iberostar’s chain – has been the exception. They have shown us meanness and shown our children that, in some establishments, intolerance is rewarded. I’m not sure this would have been legal in the UK, Iberostar insists that in Spain it’s fine.

It has tarnished our longed-for holiday that we have stretched ourselves to give the boys.


9 thoughts on “Is this discrimination against a cancer patient and his family? It feels like it.

  1. Katie Matthews

    I have just sent the following to Sr Canibano, Sr Fluxa and the six Spanish/English newspapers in Tenerife listed below:

    Dear Sr Canibano,

    My friends Celia Richardson, John Davidson and their two sons are currently staying at your hotel, the Iberostar Grand Hotel Mencey in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

    One of their little boys, Henry, is being treated for leukaemia. He has been very, very sick this year; he has also be extraordinarily brave.

    Henry and his family really need this holiday. I know they have been looking forward to it for a long time and that the boys were very excited to be staying somewhere as lovely as the Grand Hotel Mencey.

    Henry’s cancer treatment has included the strongest chemotherapy, which means he cannot be out in the sun for long. I understand you originally told Henry’s family that they could therefore use the indoor pool which is generally reserved for adults. Thank you for that: although of course one would expect a hotel like the Mencey to offer this level of service, it was a generous gesture on your part.

    I was therefore dismayed to learn that Henry’s family have now been told they cannot use the indoor pool because one single guest complained.

    I very much hope that you will be brave enough to change your mind and allow Henry and his family to use the indoor pool again. I lived in Spain for several years and one of the things I loved most about the country and its islands was people’s kind and respectful treatment of children; I hope the Grand Hotel Mencey will treat Henry and his family in this way.

    Thank you.

    Yours sincerely,

    Katie Matthews

    Sent to;;;;;;;

  2. Dalia Assem

    That’s what I will send to the hotel

    The boy is suffering a lot and we don’t need to cause him more tears .. For humanity sake .. Just let him live with a smile .. If u lose a customer but actually millions of clients would respect the hotel if he allowed him to have some minutes of happiness like any child of his age and remember it could happen to all of us or our children and relatives so have some mercy on this family


  3. Dani

    Not only can I not believe the hotel’s reaction, but the person who complained the poor child. What spineless creature would respond in the way that guest did. In cases like these I really hope karma is real. Absolute scum of the earth. Wish Henry all the best and hope he’ll get well soon. As for that ignorant guest, I’m shocked and disgusted.

  4. Johnathan Randall

    Reading this it’s not the hotel I’m angry at – they made an (IMO) immoral decision to stick by their rules – it’s the member of the public who listened to the explanation (if one was given) and decided to uphold his complaint. I feel this anonymous person is the one who should be really ashamed.

  5. Scott

    Pretty sure it would be legal in the UK too. Businesses are free to withhold services for pretty much any reason other than race, religion, gender or disability (and for better or for worse, “disability” doesn’t encompass “illness”).

    1. tinketytonks Post author

      Thanks Scott – actually cancer is protected under the disability discrimination act… I suppose I wonder if this falls into indirect discrimination. It was our younger son who was banned from the pool (which made the visit pointless) and he has some protection under the DDA too.

  6. Pingback: They said sorry | Team Henry

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