Government to consider allowing relatives of dying coronavirus patients to say goodbye

A surge in COVID-19 related deaths is forcing the Government to rethink its refusal to allow relatives of the dying to be at the bedside.

On Tuesday Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced four new deaths from coronavirus, bringing the country's death total to nine.

Of the new deaths, three were from Christchurch's Rosewood Rest Home and Hospital cluster, which has now killed six of their residents and left 14 still in hospital.

A family member of one of these cases told Newshub the current rule is "stealing people's chances to say goodbye".

"It's been five weeks, I didn't get that chance and saying goodbye was over the phone listening to his rattling breathing and not being able to see him and it's been quite difficult.

"When I asked if I could go and visit him with full PPE on and hold his hand while he was dying they said that's not possible."

The person who wished to remain anonymous said he is devastated he couldn't be with his 92-year-old father at Burwood Hospital before he died just before midnight on Monday.

Now the grieving son wants the Government to change the rule to allow other families in.

Dr Bloomfield says he is currently investigating whether it could be allowed under level 4 of the lockdown.

"This is clearly a very distressing time for family members and this is something I have asked my team to look at very specifically - the visiting policy for people who are not just dying but others in hospital.

"I genuinely [feel] for someone who has had two parents, both parents pass away. I absolutely understand how people must be feeling and that is why we are specifically looking at that policy."

For now, nursing staff are having to comfort and support those with COVID-19 in hospital.

Christchurch DHB's David Meates says: "Our thoughts are very much with the families associated with the individuals." 

"I'm really really proud of the level of care and compassion that has been provided and the feedback from families to staff has just been incredible."

The grieving son says he is thankful for those who cared for his father.

"It sounds like they're in a huge amount of discomfort but the nurses were great and they said what they'd done and he wasn't in pain. 

"Even though I couldn't see him they assured me he wasn't dying in agony but he was dying in comfort.

"He was my best friend for all my life so it's not a time when logic works very well. It's an emotional time knowing that you can't be there but it was made easier knowing there were people who truly cared with him right until the end."