‘He can’t do this alone’: Winnipeg woman says she has not been allowed to visit husband in hospital

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When COVID-19 first hit Manitoba in March 2020, Susan Martin said she and her husband John followed every condition set forth by the province.

“We locked ourselves in our home,” Martin told CTV News. “We had everything delivered, we never left the house. We never let anyone in.”

Martin said they followed public health orders diligently because of John’s heart condition. He suffered a heart attack seven years ago and spent three months in the hospital recovering at the time. She said he will eventually need a heart transplant.

Martin said they received both vaccine doses as soon as they were eligible and obtained their immunization cards.

“We wanted to make sure if anything happened, we’d be able to be together,” Martin said.

“Now, we’re asking for something in return for our sacrifice.”

John was admitted into St. Boniface Hospital on Monday for heart failure, and Martin said she hasn’t been allowed to visit him.

“They said, ‘he’s in a code red ICU – you can’t come in.”

Martin said she called every hour begging to see her husband, but continued to be denied visitation. She has been able to speak with John over the phone and said the hospital encouraged her to FaceTime him.

“I have plenty of pictures of my husband. I don’t need to FaceTime,” Martin said. “We want to see each other. He can’t do this alone.”

Martin said she has reached out to the patient relations office at St. Boniface Hospital, as well as government officials – but the answer’s remained the same.

“The lack of compassion we’ve seen is incomprehensible. We’re abandoned in our greatest hour of need.”

She doesn’t understand why, as the province opens, there are still strict visitation rules in place, even for fully vaccinated people. She wants to see changes in public health orders – not just for her and John, but for other hospitalized people who have followed the rules.

“We’ve done everything the province has asked us to do,” Martin said. “Why can’t you get me in?”

In a statement to CTV News, a Shared Health spokesperson said, “We recognize the hardship that acute-care patients and their loved ones have faced throughout the pandemic due to enhanced visitor restrictions. However, these restrictions have been – and continue to be – necessary to mitigate the spread of the virus within our hospitals and health centres.”

The statement noted visitor restrictions were loosened in low-risk, green areas of facilities in late June, and said further loosening of restrictions for fully vaccinated patients and visitors are likely to occur as immunization rates rise and community transmission rates fall.

The Shared Health statement also said guidelines allow for the designation of essential care partners – defined as individuals who provide physical, psychological, and emotional support deemed important by the patient – and limited in-person visitation between essential care partners and patients will be considered if it’s the only option to meet the patient’s needs.

Martin told CTV News she’s registered as John’s essential care provider, but said “they didn’t think she would fall” under the above designation.

On Friday, John underwent an ablation procedure to help regulate his heartbeat. Martin asked St. Boniface Hospital if she’d be allowed to visit him once he’s in recovery.

She was told he’ll remain in the restricted access ICU.

“I wish I could be there when he wakes up.”