Hospital visitor restrictions must be urgently reviewed

Apr 7, 2022 | Libby Mettam MLA, State News

As public health measures are reduced, the Opposition has appealed to the McGowan Government to urgently also review the extremely limited hospital visitor restrictions to provide a more compassionate approach proportionate to the risk.

“In WA, we have a situation where 45,000 people can attend Optus Stadium to watch the footy but two parents can’t be at their sick child’s bedside at the same time, regardless of whether they’re triple vaccinated and test negative for COVID. It’s callous and heartless,” Shadow Health Minister Libby Mettam said.

Currently, WA Health has defined an essential visitor is restricted to a parent or guardian of a child, or a person with complex needs or a disability, a carer, birthing partner, or someone otherwise present for compassionate or other reasons approved by the hospital.

While hospitals can give exemptions for visitors outside the criteria, it does not appear to be common practice, leaving many patients facing treatment alone.

The harsh rules are causing enormous stress to cancer patients such as Lorellyn Kinnaird, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment, but is not allowed to have her daughter, who is triple vaccinated, with her at her chemotherapy sessions.

“Despite the fact I travel from Busselton and stay with my daughter in Perth during treatment, she can’t attend the treatment with me because she’s not defined as a carer or partner,” Ms Kinnaird said.

“She also used to drive me to appointments but now, because I don’t feel able to drive following chemotherapy, I either have to ask her to sit outside the hospital for up to three hours or catch a taxi or public transport back to her house, putting me at higher risk of catching COVID.

“I have aggressive breast cancer and now a spot on my pelvis. I don’t know how long I have got but I do know that I’ll be facing treatment for the rest of my life, and I want my daughter to be there with me. Facing this alone is really scary and honestly doesn’t make any sense.”

Ms Mettam said this was not about the health staff, who are doing a fantastic job under trying circumstances, but the directives from the government.

“We can’t just have one set of black and white rules applied mercilessly across the board without consideration of the whole impact on patient health, there has to be a more compassionate, common-sense approach,” Ms Mettam said.

In response to a grievance in parliament today, the Health Minister said while she acknowledged it was an exceptionally challenging time for patients and supporters, she accused the Opposition of wanting WA to fail in its COVID management.

“It’s disappointing to see the Minister once again ignore the stress and unease being felt by patients to instead attack the Opposition’s voicing of concerns.

“While it is understandable that some restrictions are needed in order to protect those vulnerable people, we need room to better address these individual cases to ensure they both protect and accommodate patients and their loved ones in a compassionate way,” Ms Mettam said.