An Edmonton woman was in court today, facing health care provider Covenant Health over claims she was unjustly barred from visiting her elderly father and mother.
The case stands to affect other Albertans who have made similar claims.
Shauna McHarg’s father has Alzheimer's disease and lives at Covenant-managed Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre. But she's been barred by Covenant from seeing him since the Easter holidays in 2012. Her mother, who also suffers from Alzheimers, stays at the same facility. McHarg is only permitted to see her one hour a day during weekdays.
"Over that time, as a family we've missed birthdays. My parents had their 50th wedding anniversary. It's just tragic that as a family we can't be together,” McHarg told CBC News.
She’s been fighting for more than three years to find out why she's been barred. McHarg took her case to the provincial ombudsman, who ruled she was not being treated fairly, as well as to the provincial privacy commissioner, who also ruled that Covenant Health should release more information about why the restrictions were put in place.
However, Covenant is currently fighting to overturn that decision in court.
McHarg and Covenant were in court Thursday. The final decision is expected Friday
Hope for other families
Other families who say they've had similar experiences hope a win for McHarg in court could inspire other families to come forward.
After health complications from several strokes, Huguette Hebert made the difficult decision to move her husband of 35 years to the Convenant-managed Villa Caritas continuing care facility, which she soon regretted.
"On the second day my husband was beaten up by two patients,” said Hebert.
He was scared by the incident and asked his wife to stay past visiting hours, but she was told she was not allowed.
"And because I didn't want to have a bad experience, I decided to comply. Even if it didn't make sense at all, even if I knew he wouldn't sleep, because he was so anxious," said Hebert.
She noticed bruises on his body and wanted to stay in the room while his diaper was changed. But once again she was told she was not allowed. When she decided to stand her ground, she was kicked out and banned for the day.
Her husband lived at Villa Caritas from March 2011 to March 2013, but was eventually moved to another facility — where she said he was much happier. He died in January.
On Thursday the provinvcial health minister said families should be told why they are banned from seeing loved ones and promised to follow up with Covenant Health.
Requests to Covenant Health for an interview were denied. The organization said they couldn't speak to the specifics of the case while it's before the courts.