A Winnipeg family wants COVID-19 visitor restrictions to be relaxed in Winnipeg emergency rooms after a traumatic experience.
Alfred Jobse, a 70-year-old cancer patient, collapsed at his home last month. He was rushed to hospital, where he waited in an ambulance bay for more than two hours for a bed to be opened. Then they took him inside, still without his family by his side.
It took almost six hours for his wife, Theresa Jobse, to finally contact staff to get an update on her condition.
“I’m terrified because I don’t know what’s happening to him,” Theresa said.
Theresa continued to wait outside with her two daughters as she tried to get in with her husband.
After it became clear that the hospital would not be moving, they decided to return home to get some sleep.
COVID-19: Experts and Family Call on Ontario Hospitals to Lower Visitation Restrictions
Hours later, Alfred got worse and Theresa received a call from the hospital asking about her husband’s wishes at the end of life.
“I said, ‘I’m not going to talk to you on the phone,’” Theresa said. “Not until you let me see my husband.”
Finally he was allowed to enter.
When it became clear that her husband didn’t have much time left, she pleaded with the staff to let her daughters see their dad one last time.
“We had maybe half an hour of conscious time with him before his body shut down,” said Alfred’s daughter, Cindy McKague.
Alfred later died in an ambulance while on his way to a hospice bed at another hospital.
Alfred’s other daughter, Alicia Thwaites, said that not being able to see or get information about her father made a traumatic day that much worse.
“Sorry, if you can have fully vaccinated people at concerts and soccer games, my fully vaccinated mother should have been able to be with her husband,” Thwaites said.
A hospital worker, whom Global News agreed not to identify, said there are reasons why COVID-19 visitor restrictions are in place, but there are also many reasons why patients should be with family members.
“While we have the best of intentions, there may be aspects of care that we cannot provide that a family member might have,” he said.
The worker has been on the job for decades and said she would like to see visitation policies changed.
“All I can do is hope they understand that we care about these people,” said the worker. “It is very difficult to have to separate them at the door.”
A spokesperson for the Manitoba health minister directed questions about the policy to Shared Health.
Shared Health said visitor rules have been “regularly reviewed over the past 18 months by infection prevention and control experts,” but did not say whether there are plans to loosen the restrictions, despite Manitoba’s high vaccination rate.
Alfred’s family hopes that by sharing their story, they can help prevent others from dying alone.
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