A Newry woman has spoken of her anger and heartache after she was unable to see her elderly mum in Daisy Hill Hospital during her final days due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Margaret Hanna, who was 87, passed away on June 25, five days after being admitted.
Her daughter Martina said she had been denied “holding her hand and telling her I loved her face-to-face”.
Martina has raised a number of concerns about her mother’s care.
She claims she was admitted onto a ward which had Covid-19, despite being immunosuppressed due to multiple sclerosis.
She is also critical of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust’s visiting policies and delays over checks and personal protective equipment (PPE) which would have allowed her to visit the ward safely.
Mrs Hanna, who lived in Monaghan Row with Martina, her only child, was taken into hospital with a hiatus hernia – a condition which she had been treated for in the same hospital last year.
The following day, she was transferred from A&E, to a male medical ward, which her daughter said was “already partly closed due to Covid”.
Martina kept in contact with her mum by mobile, and on Friday got a phone call from the hospital to say she had tested positive for Covid-19.
“She was perfectly compos mentis on the phone and told me ‘there’s nothing we can do about it. You’re not to be worrying about it. It is what it is’,” said Martina.
“She told me she loved me and I told her I loved her too.”
However, within hours Mrs Hanna’s condition deteriorated and Martina believes opportunities were missed for her to see her mum, despite keeping in close contact with the hospital throughout the night.
Early on Saturday morning, Martina received a phone call to go into the hospital and when she arrived, was told her mum had passed away.
“For 24 months we had carers coming in five times a day and nothing ever happened her. She didn’t even have as much as a cold when Covid was going on,” she said.
“If you look at the guidance for Daisy Hill they talk about end-of-life care and full PPE. Why did they not afford me that opportunity at either 3am or 6am that morning?
“The trust guidance clearly states that they were encouraging visiting one hour per day, as well as end-of-life care and full PPE.”
The death certificate lists Mrs Hanna’s main cause of death as bronchial pneumonia, with hospital-acquired Covid-19 also mentioned on it.
Martina is also unhappy with other issues around her mother’s care and treatment and has sent a letter of complaint to the Southern Health and Social Care Trust.
She said: “I am so angry and I am going public in the hope it helps somebody else. I know it’s not going to bring my my mummy back and it’s not going to heal my broken heart. I don’t even think it has sunk in yet that she has gone.
“If I had even got in for 15 minutes to see my mummy and I had come out and knew she was dying, I would have been devastated. But I still would have been happy I got to hold her hand and tell her I loved her face-to-face.”
Sinn Féin Newry and Armagh MLA Liz Kimmins has raised her concerns with the Trust over the case.
She said: “The family are deeply upset by this traumatic experience and feel strongly that the situation could have been avoided.
“I have raised serious concerns with the Southern Trust’s chief executive over the need for clear visiting policies and to ensure that all efforts are made to ensure families can be with their loved ones, particularly during their final days.”
A spokesperson for the Southern Trust said: “We understand how difficult visiting restrictions can be for some patients and family members who have loved ones in hospital.
“Staff will always do their best to accommodate visiting in end-of-life and exceptional circumstances within a Covid-19 secure environment.
“We absolutely regret that it wasn’t possible for this lady to see her mother in time and extend our sincerest sympathies on her loss.”