Family pleads with hospital for visit with terminal cancer patient 'while he can still talk'

As Manitoba moves to lift restrictions on everything from restaurants to gyms, rules still remain that prevent family from visiting a patient in hospital without special permission.

Manitoba easing restrictions on restaurants and gyms, but families still can't visit loved ones in hospital

Cecille Francisco Critica and Karmina Francisco have been told they can't see their family member because he isn't sick enough yet. Renato Francisco is in Victoria Hospital with terminal cancer. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The next time Cecille Francisco Critica sees her sick father in hospital, she fears he won't be the same.

"I'm just worried by the time they ease up restrictions, it will be too late," she said.

Like many families in Manitoba, Cecille hasn't been able to visit her 80-year-old father Renato Francisco in hospital because of COVID-19 rules.

As Manitoba announces the reopening of everything from restaurants to gyms, visitors are still not allowed in acute care areas of hospitals without special permission.

Renato has been in Winnipeg's Victoria Hospital for two weeks with terminal prostate cancer, where he's undergoing radiation.

"The radiation is basically to help with the pain," his granddaughter Karmina Francisco said. "It doesn't make the cancer go away."

'He's not going to last long'

The family said hospital staff would only let them see Renato when he agrees to stop all treatment. 

"They said before they would allow us to visit, my grandpa's condition would need to be completely deteriorating, so basically close to dying," Karmina said.

"He's not dying right away, so we aren't allowed to visit him yet," Karmina said.

He's not dying right away, so we aren't allowed to visit him yet.- Karmina Francisco, granddaughter

Karmina said the family doesn't know why they are being forced to wait for Renato to be so sick he won't recognize them anymore.

"When we talked to the doctor, we were told that he's not going to last long," Karmina said.

"He's really having a hard time there without his family being by his side.… He gets confused a lot. We want to be able to visit and talk to him while he can still talk."

Renato's family said all they want is to have one immediate family member go in and check on him.

Before his stay at Victoria Hospital, he had already spent a whole month alone at Seven Oaks Hospital.

Visitor restrictions constantly being reconsidered: WRHA

Restrictions on hospital visits have been in place in Manitoba for more than two months.

The province has allowed for certain exceptions — but each facility gets to decide whether they will allow for them.

The province has previously said exceptions to hospital visitor restrictions are being made for compassionate or end-of-life reasons, at the discretion of individual unit and site managers.

But it doesn't appear the rules are being applied equally. Earlier this month, a Winnipeg woman died alone in St. Boniface Hospital after her family was denied palliative visits. The province is investigating.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has been in constant contact with hospitals, care homes and other facilities to make sure the visitor restrictions are understood and applied consistently as possible, a spokesperson said.

"Every situation is unique and many of these decisions can be extremely complex and difficult for patients and their loved ones, as well as for the clinical teams and administrators at the hospitals who are tasked with following the directive," the spokesperson wrote.

"These visitor restrictions are constantly being considered and reconsidered as the COVID-19 situation unfolds across Manitoba."

Renato Francisco, second from left, with some of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Renato is not allowed any visitors at Victoria Hospital. (Provided/Karmina Francisco)

The family has gone through the hospital's patient relations department, spoken to the unit manager, and even the hospital's CEO, but have still been denied visits.

Right now, all they can do is drop off food at the hospital front desk and try to talk to Renato on the phone if he's well enough.

"He's been pretty confused by COVID-19," Karmina said. "Sometimes he would ask, 'Can you guys visit me?'

"I know he really wants to see his family."


  • An earlier version of this story said, based on information from Shared Health, that CancerCare Manitoba allows one person to accompany cancer patients during treatment. In fact, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority later clarified that support persons/escorts are currently not allowed to accompany adult patients for appointments except in exceptional circumstances — for example, if the cancer patient needs physical help to move.
    May 29, 2020 2:44 PM CT


Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC reporter and host based in Winnipeg. She's reported nationally in Toronto and on Parliament Hill, with previous stints in Halifax and Sudbury. Her stories regularly appear across the country on CBC Radio and CBC News Network. Connect with her by email at or on social media @CBCMarina.