In an effort to contain the virus aggressively, several countries have banned visitors from entering hospitals, even if it’s to accompany your spouse or parent for a check-up. The same rule has been imposed across all 50 American states.
In New York especially, the hospital lobbies are deserted, parking lots are empty and entry points are severely restricted. Security guards and staff are on duty ensuring that hordes of relatives do not enter along with the patient.“It’s a heart-wrenching thing to do. But it’s for everyone’s protection,” Dr. Laura Forese, chief operating officer of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, told The New York Times.
Pregnant women about to deliver and postpartum patients were increasingly diagnosed with COVID-19 last week, most of whom had minor or no symptoms at all. This led to the partners of the expectant mothers being prevented entry at New York-Presbyterian and Mt. Sinai Hospital Systems in New York.
After prospective parents expressed unhappiness over the decision, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo enforced an executive order on March 28. He instructed all medical facilities in the state of New York to let at least one person accompany women in labor.
“This disease has demonstrated to us just how vulnerable the greater community can be when we have a virus circulating that no one has any immunity to. And that extraordinary reality has forced us to take extraordinary measures,” Nancy Foster, a vice president of the American Hospital Association said.
It is not clear how far along the patient must be on a death bed to allow visitors. This aspect is hard to define for many hospitals who are deciding on a case to case basis. Due to the seeming randomness of the rule, elderly people are dying alone in the absence of their loved ones, particularly in Italy where the situation escalated beyond control.
Certain hospitals are trying to procure iPads to let patients keep in touch with their family, at least virtually. Dell Hutchinson, based in Oakland California, is one such person who was happy to provide his wife a cell phone. She was admitted for a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Over time, she became too sick to pick up the phone when the rule was applied to the U.S.
Hutchinson had to call the telephone on her bedside to communicate with her. If hospital staff was not around at the same time, it did not make sense because his wife needed assistance if she is feeling weak. When she did answer, Hutchinson could not decipher much from her monotone voice. In another unfortunate case, Luzviminda Dario, 63, and his son Peter John Dario,23, were diagnosed around the same time. This tragic family’s story was the central focus of the aforementioned New York Times piece that gently articulated all the nuances of a family in the midst of an unfamiliar medical crisis.
The sad part, however, is that the Dario family never got to say their final goodbyes since the father-son duo died a few days apart. It happened so fast, although they were at the same hospital. What made matters worse for them is other immediate family members were dealing with the virus too. Dario’s aging wife and daughter were diagnosed as well.