Family demands visitor restriction changes after not being able to see mother with cancer

WINNIPEG — A Winnipeg woman is speaking out after her family wasn’t allowed to see her mother in hospital.

Nicole Funk and her family are worried about her mother, who is battling Stage 4 cancer. Her mother was admitted into palliative care at St. Boniface Hospital on November 23.

Under previous visitor restrictions, her father who has been married to her mother for over 40-years was the only one allowed to visit and would go twice a day.

Hospitals implemented new visitor restrictions Monday and the family was told they didn’t qualify for an exception, meaning her father could no longer visit his wife.

“She’s where she needs to be,” said Funk. “She can’t be at home, so we need to do what we can and we were doing that, but I feel her condition is going to be made worse without him being there.”

Funk said her father would frequently discuss care options and changes in her mother’s health with doctors.

She said her father was self-isolating and would only visit the hospital and his home.

“No one has been able to visit but him, so he was our source of comfort and now that he’s not able to visit, it just feels like our heart is being ripped out,” Funk said.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said it can’t comment on individual cases and referred CTV News to Shared Health’s explanation on visitor restrictions.

“Balancing necessary preventative measures with maintaining the vital connections that patients have with family members and support systems are top priorities as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve,” the document reads.

According to Shared Health, visitor exemptions are based on the stage of illness, projected timing of death and trajectory of expected decline.

Jennifer Gurke, the executive director of Palliative Manitoba, believes in-person visits are a vital part of caring for patients.

“The physical presence of being in the room is second to none when it comes to being available for somebody who is dying,” Gurke said.

Knowing the importance of in-person visits first hand, Funk is calling for changes to be made.

“We are doing our best with schools and everything else and we need to do our best with palliative care and other issues like that too,” said Funk. “I’m sure we aren’t the only family going through this and it’s infuriating.”

Palliative Manitoba said caregivers are working hard to provide alternatives like virtual visits, which can be a valuable resource during the pandemic.

“Palliative care is experiencing some changes in the way we have to provide care, so we to be creative and we have to be unique in terms of supporting individuals who are dying and easing their suffering,” said Gurke.

Unfortunately for Funk, her mother can’t use electronics, leaving her wondering when she’ll get to see her.

“It would mean everything. To see her, to hold her, to feel her.”

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