Some facilities are banning any visits, others allow just one visitor at a time

By Andria Kades

Patients have condemned ‘inconsistencies and harshness’ in hospital policies for visitation rights that are still leaving individuals on their death bed barred from seeing their loved ones.

The policies are largely inherited from the tough measures that emerged with the Covid-19 pandemic, which were at the time aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.

While measures have been scrapped from most public spaces, hospitals and care homes are required to adhere to certain protocols, including wearing face masks and undertaking tests before visiting.

Nonetheless, the patients’ association (Osak) has decried the existing policies which has left many patients forbidden from having any visits at all, even if they are on their death bed.

“We have received a lot of complaints about very strict visitations and each hospital has its own rules. Some specify no visits at all,” Osak rep Michaella Markou, who has been dealing with the matter explained to the Cyprus Mail.

“This is simply too much.”

The association said as much to the health ministry in a letter dated March 17, but there has been no response as of yet.

A spokesperson from the health ministry said that every hospital has its own discretionary policy on setting visitation rights.

“If one hospital has Covid infection chains, they will have a different policy to one that doesn’t. It can’t be mathematically exact.”

The rules – which vary wildly across different hospitals – also leave loved ones struggling to properly visit their relatives or loved ones if they have undergone a medical procedure.

The issue hit close to home for Michael Peters, who wrote a brief but damning letter to the president, health ministry and parliament after he had to fight hard to be allowed to visit his cousin in the final stages of cancer.

“I cannot understand why there still need to be restrictions in clinics and hospitals, especially when a patient only has days left. Moments like these need more care and the time to say goodbye to their loved ones.”

Speaking to the Sunday Mail, he said Osak had been the only one to respond yet.

“Knowing your loved one is dying and not being able to see them is terrible. I can’t even explain it to you,” he shared.

“My cousin was dying. She has two daughters and she had to choose which daughter to have by her side, and she also wanted to see her father.”

Peters said after a heated discussion with personnel at the hospital, he resorted to using political connections to apply pressure on management and enable better visitation rights.

“What about people that don’t have these connections? And why should we go to all these lengths to see our loved one?”

In Peter’s case, the visitation rules specified two people at a time were allowed in the room. The visitation rules were two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening.

“There were 15 of us downstairs and every person went in for five minutes at a time.”

His argument was that the hospital should have been more humanitarian about this, and perhaps allowed his cousin to be able to have her daughters and father in the room, rather than have smaller slots with fewer people.

Another woman, whose mother is currently in Nicosia general said visitation was one hour per day, and two people were allowed in at a time.

“She’s in intensive care so I get it, it might be difficult for her if there’s 10 of us in the room at a time.”

Osak specified that its letter to the ministry on March 17 detailing the complaints, it had stressed that it was not asking to revert back to pre-pandemic days where clusters of people would congregate near the bed.

This would also be understandably problematic if it was a shared room – though this would not negate a need to seek out a solution.

The complaints filed to Osak since the beginning of the year include a range of similar issues, detailing people who wanted to be close to their loved ones after they recovered from surgery but were simply told “no.”

Other complaints include alleged violations of the health ministry protocol on Covid-19 testing. According to the existing policy, a test from a licensed lab, pharmacy, or ministry mobile unit is valid for admission to visits patients or undergo a procedure.

One complaint however details a private hospital that demanded the test be carried out at their specific facility.

“Such complaints should be filed to the state health services (Okypy),” the health ministry said.