Caregiver refuses to leave hospital after being denied access to husband

COVID-19 policies are tough on families but necessary, CEO insists

Marie-Paule Roberge, of Sturgeon Falls, is escorted out of the WN General Hospital by two OPP officers on March 17, after refusing to leave without seeing her husband, hospitalized and quarantined due to a positive COVID-19 test.

Sturgeon Falls resident Marie-Paule Roberge is more often seen singing in the church choir or volunteering at community events, not being forced out of a place by police, so it was an unlikely scene on Thursday, March 17 when she was escorted by two OPP officers out of the West Nipissing General Hospital. Roberge refused to leave after her husband, Hector, aged 84, was admitted to Emergency on the evening of March 16th and subsequently placed in isolation for 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Roberge was not allowed access to her husband under the WNGH COVID policy. She refused to leave until she could see him, but finally acquiesced when police were called to remove her.  Roberge noted that she was her husband’s primary caregiver and the hospital policy needed to be adjusted to allow that recognition. She was visibly upset, her main concern being that her husband needed her presence at a critical time in his life.  “One thing we have learned from this experience of the COVID pandemic is how essential family members are in caring for residents in Long Term Care and patients in hospitals. The term coined is ‘Essential Caregivers’.” 

When her husband was admitted, she was not allowed to go in with him. She waited for 3 hours and was then informed that he had COVID 19. But, she said, “My husband had started his symptoms on March 6. Following the rapid test results on March 6, I called the family doctor’s office, the pharmacy, Public Health, the hospital… to inquire about anti-viral medication.” Roberge was referring to the oral antiviral Paxlovid, which was approved on January 17, 2022, by Health Canada. Ontario received limited supply from the federal government and was prioritizing people most at-risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 infection. Treatment with Paxlovid must begin within five days of symptom onset to be effective. Roberge was aware of the drug and was a bit confounded at the lack of awareness of this antiviral by local health professionals. “I was told there was none in Ontario.”

After 10 days in isolation at home, she brought her husband to the hospital and was told she could see him the next day. When she showed up to see him on the 17th, she was not allowed in. “After discussion with the nursing unit manager, the infection control manager and the CEO of the hospital, I was still not allowed to visit.” Roberge took another COVID test herself and proved negative. “Despite testing negative, being vaccinated 3 times, and able to wear PPE… I was still not allowed to visit my husband.” Later that afternoon she was advised that the hospital did, indeed, have 5 anti-viral infusions supplied by the province. “Even the CEO of the hospital did not know that WNGH had anti-viral infusion,” claims Roberge. 

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