NEW HAVEN, Conn — Riccardo Abate’s mother Anna was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital on March 3rd after a serious fall that broke her hip. Abate wanted nothing more than to be by his mother’s side but the COVID-19 visitor policy wouldn’t allow it.
Less than 24 hours later she would pass suddenly before he could say goodbye.
"You can’t be there with her and it’s just emotionally scarring," said Abate.
It’s a moment Abate thinks of every day. His mother taking her last breath and him not there by her side.
"The nurse said how your mom is sweet. She held my hand, thanked me for what I did and she took her last breath," said Abate.
At the age of 91, Anna's injury could be life-threatening. Abate tried to visit her at Yale-New Haven hospital but was turned away.
Yale’s current COVID-19 visitor policy states visitors are allowed if a patient has been in the hospital for at least 8 days, is about to go into surgery, or is in an end-of-life situation.
"What bothered me was I couldn’t be there before to be at her side but now I can go there while she still in the hospital room after she passed and I can bring one other person," said Abate. "It just doesn’t make sense."
Abate has started a petition to get Yale to reconsider their policy to be open to more situations like a serious injury.
Other health networks in the state have similar portals already. Hospitals in the Hartford Healthcare and Trinity Health Network allow one visitor during visitor hours if the visitor doesn’t show any COVID symptoms and follows proper social distancing guidelines. Nowhere do their websites state there needs to be a minimum stay.
Senator Tony Hwang (R) is a ranking member of the Public Health Committee. He believes family being present with loved ones is critical to recovery.
"We also need the Department of Public Health and the Governor to be able to set particular guidelines," said Hwang.
State Senator and Vice-Chair of the Public Health Committee Dr. Saud Anwar (D) agrees with the humanitarian aspect of the matter but also points to numerous logistical challenges hospitals face.
"How many patients are in the hospital with COVID because the person who is going to get exposed to it may not have 100% protection," said Anwar. "The other challenge is they can still be carriers and transmit it because the hospital has a lot of people who are immunocompromised."
While every situation is different Anwar believes hospitals can still take a closer look on a case-by-case basis. Anwar lost his brother to COVID-19 this year and he says the most difficult part was not being by his side.
"It could happen to each and every one of us and we have to survive knowing that we were not there physically, but our loved ones remain part of us," said Anwar.
Yale-New Haven Hospital provided a statement on the petition saying:
“We recognize how difficult it is for those who are unable to visit their loved ones during this pandemic and we constantly try to balance those needs with the safety of our staff and patients. Yale-New Haven Health has always allowed visitation for patients who are at the end of life and for patients with specific needs and continues to ease restrictions as data permits.”
Yale did not say if or when their policies will loosen but Anwar believes that will come as more and more people receive the vaccine.
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