15 May 2023

The impact of the Covid-era ban on people visiting dying relatives

From Nine To Noon, 9:05 am on 15 May 2023
APPLE VALLEY, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 23: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Registered nurse Katelyn Musslewhite cares for a COVID-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Providence St. Mary Medical Center amid a surge in COVID-19 patients in Southern California on December 23, 2020 in Apple Valley, California. The 213 bed capacity hospital in San Bernardino County is currently treating at least 140 COVID 19-positive inpatients while operating at approximately 250 percent of ICU capacity. Southern California remains at zero percent of its ICU (Intensive Care Unit) bed capacity amid the spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.   Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Photo: AFP

New research has found much harm was caused to families of end of life patients and the clinicians caring for them. The study published in the BMJ Quality and Safety - was led by University of Auckland Associate Professor in the School of Nursing Rachael Parke, and funded by a grant from the Health Reserch Council of NZ.. She says grief, anger and stress were just some of the unintended consequences of the patient visiting ban, which was initially aimed at keeping people safe. And this was experienced by families and by nursing and medical staff who had to enforce the rules. Dr Parke says before the pandemic, families were increasingly recognised as collaborators in the safety and quality of care for people in hospital. But early in the Covid outbreak visitor bans were seen as contributing to a low spread of infection and low mortality, but came to be seen as restrictive and oppressive by many. One of the conclusions from the study is that visitor rights and visitor policy at the end of life require greater protection during a pandemic, and there's a need for informed ethical guidelines around visiting during a future disaster or disease outbreak in order to avert a legacy of disenfranchised grief.

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