A grieving Otaki daughter believes her dad's life was cut short after having no family support when he was dying in hospital.

Tania Barker says she wants better leadership from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to ensure families aren't stripped of their basic right to visit their relatives in hospital in their final moments.

"It was absolutely disgusting my dad was left alone in hospital for 10 days when he was dying," a tearful Barker told the Herald.

Her comments come after director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced his team were launching a review into the current exemptions cases, including those denied the right to see their dying relatives.


The review started on Tuesday and would be completed as soon as possible, Bloomfield said.

But for Barker's dad - described as "a real gentleman" - it was too late.

She knew her 94-year-old dad didn't have long to live and after the hospital had refused her and her sister visiting rights they made the heart-breaking decision to bring him home.

"We had to pay for our own ambulance. I felt like I was killing him and I remember asking him whether we'd made the right decision and he assured us we had, he couldn't die alone."

Ken Barker had been battling melanoma for more than a year before he was rushed to Palmerston North Hospital last month.

For 10 days he lay in a hospital bed alone and "it broke him".

"He also said having us around was what kept him going and I think when he was left alone he started to give up."

Ken Barker spent 10 days in hospital alone when he was dying. His daughters were denied visiting rights. Photo / Supplied
Ken Barker spent 10 days in hospital alone when he was dying. His daughters were denied visiting rights. Photo / Supplied

Barker and her sister complained to MidCentral District Health Board chief executive Kathryn Cook who told them in a letter that to minimise the risk of spreading Covid-19 the decision to restrict patient visits had been established at all district health boards.


The Ministry of Health said that decision was up to each individual DHB.

Barker said despite being told compassionate requests were reviewed case by case it simply wasn't true.

"On the DHB's website it said seriously ill or terminally ill patients could be considered to be granted support but we were told it was only if they terminal.

"It was a total black and white decision based on vague guidelines."

Barker's message for the Prime Minister was: "If you want compassion to happen and you can see that it's patch work depending on which hospital you are in and who you happen to talk to then you need to show more leadership from the top.

"I honestly don't know how I would have coped if I hadn't been there in his final moments."

Despite her family's hardship, Barker stressed she was proud of the work Ardern had done to stamp out Covid-19 and of the New Zealand public for following the rules.

"I just want more leadership on this area."

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

It was revealed yesterday that a man in managed self-isolation went to the High Court after the Ministry of Health refused to allow him an exemption to see his dying father.

Oliver Christiansen was able to spend 36 hours with his dad Anthony Christiansen who was dying of brain cancer after the judge overturned the Ministry's decision.

Christiansen told the Herald he was thrilled all other exemption cases were being reviewed.

"Hopefully with empathetic eyes because with hindsight the thought of me not having had that time with my dad and family is unfathomable.

"I sincerely hope it isn't too late for anyone else but no doubt the clock is ticking."

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Today, Ardern said "these are devastating cases" but 20 people who've come into the country and were in isolation had tested positive and showed the risks they carried.

She said the "whole point" of having the ability to apply for exemption to isolation was for each case to be considered individually and not an automated process.

But they didn't want "double-grief" by allowing unsafe situations.

Ardern said there were some very complicated situations.

It was ultimately the right decision to go back and review the decisions again, she said.

"Decisions shouldn't be made in an automated way, they should be given due consideration."

Bloomfield said the review team was working rapidly as they recognised the time pressures of the requests.