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Winnipeg family denied hospital room visit due to unvaccinated patient sharing room

ICU bed

A Winnipeg family is speaking out after not being able to visit their loved one in hospital because they were transferred into a room with an unvaccinated patient.

Sabrina Foxworthy's sister was admitted into the Health Sciences Centre ICU on July 8 with life-threatening injuries.

"We were able to visit because it was so life and death, and she may very well pass away," said Foxworthy.

After about two weeks in intensive care, Foxworthy's sister was moved to a step-down unit and given a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"So when she had her second dose, they said once she was out of the step-down unit and into a regular unit, and was two weeks past the second dose, we could start visiting again," Foxworthy said.

Once the two weeks passed, Foxworthy was able to visit her sister until she was moved without the family knowing.

"My mom walked into what she thought was my sister's hospital room, and there was somebody else, at which point [the hospital] said they had moved her and was now in the rehab portion of the hospital," said Foxworthy.

"[My mother] finally got to the correct area of the hospital and was then told she can't visit her because she was roomed with an unvaccinated person."

According to Foxworthy, after much fuss, the nurses were able to bring her sister to meet her mother instead of the mother going into the room.

"It's made us feel like we are completely being lied to by the government," said Foxworthy.

"We got vaccinated. We patiently waited two weeks for my sister's second dose. And now, if someone doesn't want to get vaccinated in my sister's room, then we can't visit."

A day after the incident, Foxworthy's sister was moved to a room with other vaccinated patients. The family, however, now fears visitation could be taken away at any time.

"We have this looming threat that she could get moved to another room or someone can come in, and you can't see her anymore. That really doesn't sit well with us. I don't think that sits well with anybody," Foxworthy said.

According to a Shared Health document dated June 18, hospital visits can occur in some areas if both the patient and the visitor are fully vaccinated.

“Visits may occur in the patient’s room if physical distancing can be maintained between visitor and inpatient and if all patients present are fully vaccinated (if a shared room),” the policy reads. “If a room is not large enough for physical distancing to be maintained or if another patient in a shared room has not been fully immunized, the facility will determine if another location can be accommodated for the visit. This consideration will also include an assessment of whether it is safe to move the patient to another location."

Foxworthy believes the policy creates more tension between people around the vaccine.

"If the reason is to protect the unvaccinated person, then that's problematic because they made a choice. To have their rights trump my sister's rights to a visitor is wrong," Foxworthy said.

"It feels like it's a constant pitting between the (vaccinated) and (unvaccinated). People have the right to choose what to do, but this is continuing to create a divide."

In a statement to CTV News, Shared Health said, "We recognize the emotional strain that visitor restrictions have had on patients/residents and their loved ones throughout the pandemic and acknowledge the current concerns expressed by individuals via your organization."

Shared Health said it could not comment directly on the situation due to privacy laws.

It did note that its policies are reviewed regularly during the pandemic.

"Visitation principles have been regularly reviewed throughout the past 18 months by infection prevention and control experts, in an effort to find a balance between the known risks of the virus and the valuable connections patients crave from loved ones."

Shared Health said patients and loved ones with questions or concerns about visitation should contact the appropriate facility or health region's patient relations department.

As for Foxworthy, she worries about her sister not being able to get visitors.

"It's a significant impact on their mental health, well-being and healing," said Foxworthy. "Especially someone in my sister's condition. She can't text or hold a phone because her entire body is in a cast. To not have human [visits] or contact is wrong."

-With files from CTV’s Kayla Rosen Top Stories

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