Hospital ‘prisoners’ distraught

Brad Scicluna, while isolated in hospital.

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

A terminal cancer-patient has won a fight to be visited by his children despite ever-tightening restrictions on hospital visits.

Bradley Scicluna, 43, from Lynbrook, had been further suffering from not seeing his wife and two daughters for two weeks under the South Eastern Private Hospital’s strict Covid-19 ban.

“It is so wrong, especially for the patient’s mental wellbeing,” he said as he recovered from surgery for secondary bone cancer at the Mulgrave hospital’s rehab unit.

“It’s like prison.”

The last straw was the family being unable to celebrate Bradley’s wife Catherine’s birthday together last week.

But eventually the pleas bore fruit – with Catherine allowed one hour a day access and the children for 30 minutes on 26 July.

However the engineer at Dandenong bus manufacturer Volgren points to many other isolated patients, including intensive-care, denied visits from loved ones.

It’s not the first time he’s battled against the odds. Three years ago, he was diagnosed with stage-4 gall bladder cancer.

A regular jogger, he’s run on with the help of a clinical immunotherapy trial – even finishing the Melbourne Marathon in 2018.

He’s also battled for more patients to get access to life-saving but prohibitively expensive medication under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

His daughter Olivia had earlier written a distraught plea to Star Journal, in response to her father’s worsening condition: “Can you help me get to see my Dad?”

“Due to the strict Covid-19 regulations no children are allowed in the hospital.

“My sister and I are missing our Dad so much.

“Nobody reports about how hard it is for children that can’t see their parents if they are in hospital during these times.

“Cancer doesn’t stop or go away even during a pandemic.”

On 15 July, the hospital temporarily banned in-person visits – a ban beyond state health department guidelines.

Even under tightened rules on 22 July, the DHHS recommends one visitor for up to one hour a day.

The hospital imposed the stricter limits due to a “significant increase” in community transmission and re-introduction of stage 3 Covid-19 restrictions.

“Family and patients are encouraged speak with hospital management to discuss their individual circumstances in order to accommodate visitation for compassionate grounds where possible,” a South Eastern Private spokesperson told Star Journal.

There are exceptions for palliative or end-of-life circumstances, or for specialist care givers. This allowed Catherine to visit Bradley alone.

Based on its own risk analysis, the hospital was able to introduce “additional measures” on top of DHHS-recommendations.

As of 24 July, the hospital had no known links to Covid-19 cases.

However Greater Dandenong as well as large parts of Melbourne have suffered alarming rises in Covid-19 cases in recent days.

In the past 14 days, active cases have soared from four to 87 in Greater Dandenong. At the same time, Casey’s active cases have swelled from 22 to 157.

“South Eastern Private Hospital, like a number of other private and public hospitals in the region, have implemented a nil visitor policy to maximise the safety of patients, staff and doctors,” the hospital spokesperson said.

A Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson said “unprecedented measures” were being taken to protect hospital staff, patients and visitors.

“Due to an increased risk of transmission of coronavirus, changes have been made to the Chief Health Officer’s directions for hospital and aged care visits, to help slow the spread of this highly infectious and deadly virus.

“We know this is incredibly difficult for patients and their loved ones right now, but we need to do everything we can to keep people safe and save lives.”

 

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