Family pleads with hospital to see terminal cancer patient ‘while he can still talk’

By | May 29, 2020

The next time Cecille Francisco-Critica sees her sick father in hospital, she fears he won’t be the same.

“I’m just worried by the time they ease up restrictions, it will be too late,” she said.

Like many families in Manitoba, Cecille hasn’t been able to visit her 80-year-old father Renato Francisco in hospital because of COVID-19 rules.

As Manitoba announces the reopening of everything from restaurants to gyms, visitors are still not allowed in acute care areas of hospitals without special permission.

Renato has been in Winnipeg’s Victoria Hospital for two weeks with terminal prostate cancer, where he’s undergoing radiation.

“The radiation is basically to help with the pain,” his granddaughter Karmina Francisco said. “It doesn’t make the cancer go away.”

‘He’s not going to last long’

The family said hospital staff would only let them see Renato when he agrees to stop all treatment. 

“They said before they would allow us to visit, my grandpa’s condition would need to be completely deteriorating, so basically close to dying,” Karmina said.

“He’s not dying right away, so we aren’t allowed to visit him yet,” Karmina said.

He’s not dying right away, so we aren’t allowed to visit him yet.– Karmina Francisco, granddaughter

Karmina said the family doesn’t know why they are being forced to wait for Renato to be so sick he won’t recognize them anymore.

“When we talked to the doctor, we were told that he’s not going to last long,” Karmina said.

“He’s really having a hard time there without his family being by his side.… He gets confused a lot. We want to be able to visit and talk to him while he can still talk.”

Renato’s family said all they want is to have one immediate family member go in and check on him.

Before his stay at Victoria Hospital, he had already spent a whole month alone at Seven Oaks Hospital.

Visitor restrictions constantly being reconsidered: WRHA

Restrictions on hospital visits have been in place in Manitoba for more than two months.

There are certain exceptions — for example, patients undergoing treatment with CancerCare Manitoba are allowed one person with them.

CBC News asked the province why cancer patients like Renato were not allowed a visitor as well, but did not receive a response.

The province has previously said exceptions to hospital visitor restrictions are being made for compassionate or end-of-life reasons, at the discretion of individual unit and site managers.

But it doesn’t appear the rules are being applied equally. Earlier this month, a Winnipeg woman died alone in St. Boniface Hospital after her family was denied palliative visits. The province is investigating.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has been in constant contact with hospitals, care homes and other facilities to make sure the visitor restrictions are understood and applied consistently as possible, a spokesperson said.

“Every situation is unique and many of these decisions can be extremely complex and difficult for patients and their loved ones, as well as for the clinical teams and administrators at the hospitals who are tasked with following the directive,” the spokesperson wrote.

“These visitor restrictions are constantly being considered and reconsidered as the COVID-19 situation unfolds across Manitoba.”

Renato Francisco, second from left, with some of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Renato is not allowed any visitors at Victoria Hospital. (Provided/Karmina Francisco)

The family has gone through the hospital’s patient relations department, spoken to the unit manager, and even the hospital’s CEO, but have still been denied visits.

Right now, all they can do is drop off food at the hospital front desk and try to talk to Renato on the phone if he’s well enough.

“He’s been pretty confused by COVID-19,” Karmina said. “Sometimes he would ask, ‘Can you guys visit me?’

“I know he really wants to see his family.”

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