COVID-19 visitor rules keep Winnipeg man away from family for most of his final hours

Click to play video: 'Calls for hospital visitor restrictions to be loosened' Calls for hospital visitor restrictions to be loosened
WATCH: A Winnipeg family is speaking out and hoping to get hospital visitors restrictions loosened. Joe Scarpelli reports. – Oct 19, 2021

A Winnipeg family wants to see COVID-19 visitor restrictions loosened in Winnipeg emergency rooms after a traumatic experience.

Alfred Jobse, a 70-year-old cancer patient, collapsed at home last month. He was rushed to the hospital where he waited in an ambulance bay for more than two hours for a bed to open up. He was then taken inside, still without his family by his side.

It took nearly six hours for his wife, Theresa Jobse, to finally get through to staff for an update on his 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 while she tried to get inside with her husband.

After it became clear the hospital wouldn’t budge, they decided to head home for some sleep.

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Read more: COVID-19: Experts, family call for Ontario hospitals to loosen visitation restrictions

Hours later, Alfred took a turn for the worse and Theresa received a call from the hospital asking for her husband’s end of life wishes.

“I said, ‘I’m not going to talk to you over the phone,'” Theresa said. “Not until you let me see my husband.”

She was finally allowed inside.

When it became clear her husband didn’t have much time left, she pleaded with 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,” Alfred’s daughter Cindy McKague said.

Alfred later died in an ambulance on his way to a palliative care bed at another hospital.

Alfred’s other daughter, Alicia Thwaites, said not being able to see or get information about her dad made a traumatic day much worse.

“I’m sorry, if you can have fully-vaccinated people at concerts and football games, my fully-vaccinated mother should’ve been allowed to be with her husband,” Thwaites said.

Theresa Jobse (centre) sits with her two daughters Alicia Thwaites (left) and Cindy McKague.

A hospital worker, who Global News has agreed to not identify, said there are reasons the COVID-19 visitor restrictions are in place, but there are also many reasons patients need to be with their family members.

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“While we have the absolute best intentions, there may be facets of care we can’t give them that a family member could,” she said.

The worker has been on the job for decades and said she’d like to see visitation policies changed.

“All I can do is hope that they understand that we do care about these folks,” the worker said. “It’s very difficult to have to separate them at the door.”

A spokesperson for Manitoba’s health minister directed questions regarding the policy to Shared Health.

Shared Health said the visitor rules have been “regularly reviewed throughout the past 18-plus months by infection prevention and control experts,” but did not say if there are any 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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