Distraught family upset at hospital policy barring visitation to dying sibling

Lester Ruiz was always surrounded by a closely knit family of seven brothers and sisters, but, fighting for his life at the University of Montreal Hospital Centre (CHUM), he has not been able to see them all.

Hospitals across Quebec are once again blocking access to visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The measure can have a profound impact on families of patients facing end-of-life.

Ruiz's kidneys and lungs are failing as a result of a long battle with addiction, and members of his family have been barred access to see him.

"They're telling us he has hours to live," said Lester's brother Carlos Ruiz Thursday night. "We don't know. It's so unpredictable, so we dropped everything as soon as we could and went on our way."

Carlos has not been able to see his brother.

"They stopped us before we had the opportunity to get through or anything," he said.

His sister Sindy did make it in along with her brother's young children.

"I've been holding his hand and caressing his head to just at least make him feel he's not alone, but at least human contact helps," she said.

Sindy said Friday morning that the family is still fighting to have an exception made so Lester's siblings can visit him in his final hours.

The CHUM said in a statement that they regret the situation but must stick to protocol during the health crisis.

"With the increase in COVID-19 cases and the growing risk of community contamination (red zone), the CHUM made the difficult decision on October 1 to once again suspend visits and support, in order to ensure patients' and employees' safety," the hospital said in a statement.

The hospital has restricted visits to no more than three siblings per 24-hour period.

Sindy finds it unfair that the rest of the family cannot take turns visiting Lester, especially with her brother's deteriorating condition.

"To be honest, the way he's going from this morning to even yesterday night (Wednesday), he was fully responsive fully awake, and then just an hour ago, he's not even making sentences or words," said Sindy on Thursday.

The family has not been told if an exception would be made.

"The fact that we can't even go upstairs and discuss with the doctors to fight for him because he can't fight for himself is very distressing," said Carlos.

All the family wants is a chance to say goodbye. 

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