John Parkes is nearing the end of his life after a battle with cancer - and all he wants is for someone to hold his hand.

Now the 76-year-old's family is making an urgent appeal for leniency and compassion, as the Covid-19 lockdown means very limited time with their father just when he needs it the most.

Aucklander Jess Parkes, 20, has described the heartbreak of being told that as of today, visiting times to see her grandfather would be cut down to 15 minutes per day - by one family member only.

There is to be no physical contact and the person who comes to see him must stand at the foot of the bed.

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"We all know the importance of the Covid-19 lockdown and we all really appreciate the healthcare team [caring] for my grandfather.

"However, for compassionate reasons, families should be able to say goodbye to their loved ones - not just my family, but other families who are in the same position.

"All we want is for him to be comfortable and to not be distressed in his final days. He doesn't deserve to die alone."

The family has chosen to speak out about the issue as they felt there would be many other people and families going through the same struggle.

They had earlier been allowed to visit daily. The only rules were that visits be restricted to one person at a time and not after 8pm.

Auckland woman Jess Parkes holds the hand of her dying grandfather in hospital. Photo / Jess Parkes
Auckland woman Jess Parkes holds the hand of her dying grandfather in hospital. Photo / Jess Parkes

Yesterday, however, was particularly difficult for both Parkes and her grandfather, who became emotional when his granddaughter was told she had to leave.

"He was crying and would not let go of my hand," she said.

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"When I tried to leave - his grip is so strong - I couldn't get my hand away.

"I was just walking around the hospital crying because I didn't want to leave him."

Robert Parkes said his father had been tested for Covid-19 and the result had come back negative.

He and his sister and their respective families and their mother were also keeping to separate isolation bubbles and no one was sick or showing flu-like symptoms.


The situation has taken a toll on their family.

Even the staff at Middlemore Hospital were upset for them, he said, with nurses apologising and saying the lockdown had also been hugely hard on themselves as they could not give the kind of palliative care they wanted to.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

'He deserves his family and that respect at the end'

That care included giving families the opportunities to come together and sit with a patient, hold their hand and simply spend time with them.

John Parkes is to be transferred to Pukekohe Hospital and the rules would be the same there too.

Fifteen minutes was simply not enough, Robert Parkes said.

He said it was even more upsetting when taking into account that their father served in the Royal New Zealand Navy, worked in Foreign Affairs and the Government Communications Security Bureau.

"He worked protecting the country and he's a very proud man and New Zealander - we've always been very proud of him."

His father deserved to have his family around him and deserved that care and respect at the end, he said.

"The overwhelming message from everyone is that this is unnecessary and it's actually cruel not only to the patient and the families, but the medical staff too."

Jess Parkes posted a touching photo online yesterday, holding her granddad's hand.

"The photo is from when I got asked to leave the hospital and because of the new policy, it might be the last time I ever hold his hand."