Heather du Plessis-Allan: Ministry of Health's stance on exemptions is heartless

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Publish Date
Tue, 5 May 2020, 5:35PM
24 people are seeking exemptions to visit dying family members. (Photo / File)

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Ministry of Health's stance on exemptions is heartless

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Publish Date
Tue, 5 May 2020, 5:35PM

I want to tell you about a conversation our producer Laura had this afternoon.

She spoke to a woman who’s too upset to come on the show, and I don’t want to name her in case it makes things harder for her.

This woman is in quarantine in a hotel in Auckland, and her mum is dying.

She’s come home from Australia to see her mum before it’s too late.

Just like the case we heard of yesterday of Oliver Christiansen, who wanted to say goodbye to his dad, she’s asked the ministry of health for a quarantine exemption and they’ve said no.

She thought they were about to say yes today because she heard the PM yesterday say 18 people had been given permission. She thought that meant she was probably going to get a yes too.

Our producer had to tell her the PM was wrong, no one’s been given permission. She started crying on the phone.

Let’s be honest: she might not ever see her mum alive again.

The Ministry of Health is reviewing all 24 requests that they’ve declined, but that review will take most of the week. By then, this woman’s quarantine will probably be finished as she’s allowed out this weekend. But her mum might not make it to the weekend.

 

And the review doesn’t bode well for anyone else in quarantine hoping to say goodbye to loved ones.  The review’s being by the ministry’s legal team. Does that feel like the very people you’d send in to try to find a way to avoid having to change the decisions?

I don’t know how we’ve ended up with a health ministry so heartless and a Director-General of Health who isn’t sorry that this is happening.

He says his team are empathetic, but they’re not.  They’ve declined all the requests for exemptions. 

I read the judgement last night in the case of Oliver Christiansen and it’s obvious the Ministry of Health doesn’t want to say yes. Either that or we’ve found a collection of the stupidest public servants in the country.

Every time Oliver asked for an exemption on the grounds of ‘exceptional circumstances’, they told him that he didn’t qualify for a medical transfer.

Of course he didn’t qualify for a medical transfer. He wasn’t sick. He wasn’t even asking for that, but they made it sound like that was the only grounds for an exemption, and it wasn’t.

So they’re either stupid or deliberately frustrating people who want to say goodbye to their parents.

By the way, this isn’t just about 24 people in quarantine asking permission.  This has been happening for seven weeks. For the entire duration of Level 4 Lockdown, people were forced to die alone in their hospital beds without any family or friends with them.

The Ministry of Health has lost perspective. In the battle against a disease, it has condemned families to a sorrow that will sit with them for the rest of their lives.

I am not proud of them. I want them to show compassion. I want them to take a dose of their own medicine.

Remember what their boss Ashley Bloomfield and the PM keep telling us? Be kind. They should try a bit of kindness themselves.