Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health says family members should be allowed to comfort dying loved ones in hospitals, so long as proper precautions are taken to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Speaking at Queen's Park on Wednesday, Dr. Barbara Yaffe told reporters she would ensure that hospitals across the province have a clear message to allow family members, whether they're from a COVID-19 "hot spot" or not, to visit loved ones in their final days.
"The policy should be that the close visitors are allowed to come in, obviously wearing appropriate masking and so on," Dr. Yaffe said. "I will follow up with Ontario Health later to get some communication out to all hospitals in Ontario to remind them in a situation where someone is dying, and it's palliative, that family members should be allowed to visit with all the precautions in place."
The comments came on a question about cases of people being given conflicting messages from health-care providers about whether or not they can visit their loved ones. In a specific instance, the doctor said yes, but the nurse in charge said no because the visitor was from a COVID-19 hot spot.
That visitor was Newstalk 580 CFRA and Bell Media Radio host Bill Carroll, who spoke about it publicly on air this week.
Carroll traveled to Oshawa to visit his mother, but was denied entry upon arrival because he came from Ottawa, which has been identified by the province as a "hot spot" for COVID-19. Ottawa has the highest per-capita rate of residents testing positive for COVID-19 in Ontario.
"I rushed there because they said they would allow family members to say goodbye. In fact, the doctor said, 'It's time,'" he said. "My siblings and I converged on the area only knowing that we'd get to see her and we had to go now."
Carroll said he was screened for COVID-19 and had a mask on and was outside his mother's door when a nurse told him he wasn't allowed in.
"You're from a hot spot, in Ottawa, you're not allowed in," Carroll said he was told. "The nurse that was in with my mother said, 'That's not true, the doctor has approved it,' and the other nurse said, 'I don't care what the doctor said, this is a public health decision.' So, I stood there quietly, not wanting to make a fuss because you know that I believe we follow health protocols, but I'm frustrated at the mixed messages as you can imagine."
He was asked to wait outside and after some time was told that he would absolutely not be allowed in.
Premier Doug Ford, who is a close friend of Carroll's spoke about the situation at Queen's Park on Wednesday.
"My heart breaks for him, my heart breaks for all families," Ford said. "I just want to tell everyone, I understand the pain that you're going through and we'll do everything we can to make sure that you get in the hospitals."
On Tuesday, Carroll spoke out harshly against the people who have been flouting COVID-19 rules.
"The thing that frustrated me most was know that because I'm in this so-called hot spot of Ottawa, that this label has been put on us, that I cannot be with my mother to say goodbye," Carroll said. "And I thought about all the people wh0 had bigger weddings than they were allowed, who had big backyard parties, who ignored the rules, and who think they have a right not to wear a mask and do whatever the Hell they want, and I know it's a relatively small number of people, but I was pissed.
"I know if you're 25 years old and you want to party and you think this is not about you, it might be about you in ways you don't expect. For God's sake, we've got to stop being selfish. If the numbers in Ottawa had remained the way they were back in the late summer, I would have said goodbye to my mother already and we'd all be living something a little closer to a normal life."
Ford said Wednesday that situations like this is a consequence of rising numbers of COVID-19 infections across the province.
"When people are running around, not following the guidelines, the consequences may not be your mother, it may not be your grandparents, but it's someone else's. Please, just follow the guidelines. God forbid it's one of your loved ones that is in the hospital and they have hours or days to live."
Ford said his prayers and thoughts are with Bill Carroll and his family.