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Canadian man says hospital denial of visits to his dying mother will ‘haunt’ him forever

  • As his mother was dying in the hospital, a Canadian man, John Wu, was told by hospital staff that he could not visit her due to COVID-19 visitation policies.

  • On March 7, Wu was turned away after he went to the hospital to drop off cantaloupes for his mother, Zhong Ying Zhao, and received a call while leaving that his mother had passed.

  • Zhong had been in isolation care at Scarborough’s Birchmount Hospital following a COVID outbreak at her assisted living home.

  • Wu had requested visitation permission for 11 days straight but was rejected each time, even after Zhong had twice tested negative for COVID.

  • In response to Wu’s situation, Scarborough Health Network is currently reviewing its visitation policy.

A man in Canada, John Wu, said he now has a “lifetime regret” after a hospital barred him from visiting his dying mother at Scarborough’s Birchmount Hospital due to COVID-19 visitation policies.

Wu’s mother, Zhong Ying Zhao, was admitted to the hospital on Feb. 24 after falling unconscious at her assisted living facility. Due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility, Zhong was placed under isolation at the hospital, reported CBC News.

According to Wu, the hospital staff refused him visitation permission even though his mother showed signs of nearing end of life. Zhong’s hospital records he provided to CBC News showed a prognosis of “worsening renal and cardiac function.” Wu was also told that his mother was weak, unable to eat and did not have the strength to hold the phone. 

“I told her, ‘Just hang in there. Eat as much as you can. Maybe tomorrow I will be able to see you.’ And I hung up,” Wu told CBC News.

Wu called the hospital for 11 days straight requesting permission to visit his mother; however, his requests were denied every time even after Zhong had tested negative for COVID. 

On March 7, Wu drove to Birchmount Hospital to drop off prepared cantaloupes, as he had been dropping food off for his mother at the security desk almost everyday since she had been admitted. As he was leaving, however, Wu received a phone call from the doctor who informed him that Zhong had passed away from respiratory failure and congestive heart failure.

“Why was I not allowed to see my dying mother? Why didn’t anybody in the hospital ever tell me that my mother’s death was imminent?” Wu said.

Wu added that he felt “shocked” and “furious” at that moment and that the experience “will be haunting me [Wu] forever.”

“This will be my lifetime regret,” Wu said. “It will always be in my heart.”

According to a recent annual report on public hospitals, Ontario’s patient ombudsman said its office had received 677 complaints related to COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021. Of 677 complaints, 242 were about visitation issues. 

In response to Wu’s outcry, Scarborough Health Network stated that they are now reviewing its visitation policies to align with their “commitment to the most compassionate patient care.”

“Our visitor policy aims to balance the need for patients to have loved ones near them while maintaining the highest level of safety in our hospitals,” Scarborough Health Network said in an emailed statement to CBC News. “We are reviewing our visitor policies to ensure they align with our commitment to the most compassionate patient care.”

Wu said he wants to share his story to prevent other families from going through the same experience and to make people recognize that there is “an issue here in our society.”

 

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