Grace MacCormick says the Covid-19 lockdown has meant terminally-ill patients in hospices have been restricted to only one visitor.
And she reports there are ‘tragic and heart-wrenching’ stories of people unable to visit relatives.
No other visitors allowed
She says at the Mary Potter Hospice in Wellington and the Mercy Hospice in Auckland a patient can have one personal visitor or caregiver with them and that person remains the same throughout their stay. There are no other visitors allowed during level 4 lockdown.
The only difference between the two, she says is that the Mercy Hospice does not allow the nominated visitor to leave the grounds. If they do, they are not allowed back.
At Mary Potter, the visitor is allowed to leave the hospice for short periods, but they have to have their temperature taken when they return.
The one visitor must be the same person the whole time the patient is in care. This is a drastic change from the welcoming of family members and friends that normally occurs during hospice stays.
And she points out the Covid-19 lockdown has had a similar significant impact on the patients, staff and caregivers in hospices around the country.
(Source: Hospice New Zealand)
At the Mercy Hospice, visitors asked not to leave the grounds
In Auckland at the Mercy Hospice, onsite visitors are asked not to leave, and not even to go for a walk unless it is around the grounds.
These restrictions are in place to protect both staff and patients from Covid-19, says Mercy Hospice’s chief executive Paul Couper.
“The biggest impact is on other family members, and there are some tragic and heart-wrenching stories of people wanting to visit relatives who might be in the hospice,” he says.
Mary Potter allows the visitor to leave and then return
The Mary Potter Hospice is allowing the nominated onsite visitor to leave and come back. However, every visitor to the hospice must have their temperature taken.
Whilst they are in the hospice, they are encouraged to stay in their family member’s room.
Director of Fundraising and Communications at Mary Potter Hospice, Philippa Sellens, says that the hospice is a very quiet place at the moment, far less bubbly than it is normally.
( Photo: Wellington Mayor Andy Foster and Philippa Sellens during the annual street day)
“We have up to twelve patients in the in-patient unit, but on any one day we have about 250 patients in the community, and that is where the biggest changes have been with the way we do things.”
The Mary Potter Hospice and many others are now using tele-health in order for virtual consultations with doctors and palliative care coordinators to continue.
If patients need a face-to-face consultation then they will have that; however, if their condition is under control then virtual consultations will take place.
Ms Sellens says that it all depends on the level of need and the outcome of a risk assessment. “Our staff carry out risk assessments of every home before face-to-face visits to ensure it is safe.”
“For our staff at the Mary Potter Hospice it is not always the ‘hospice way’ of doing things, but they are doing absolutely everything they can to make the experience as comfortable as they can for patients and their families.
“They are absolutely going above and beyond. They are just incredible.”