Daughter who recently travelled from U.S. allowed to see terminally-ill father, but wants process streamlined

Phillips said while she was pleased with the end result, she says something needs to be done to ensure other families do not go through what she experienced.

Leah Phillips drove from Denver to be by her father's side

Leah Phillips drove with her husband Austin from Denver, Colo., on Friday, arriving in Saskatoon on Saturday morning at 1:30 a.m. On Sunday, she was allowed to see her father after her family's concerns were highlighted publicly. (Supplied/Leah Phillips)

A Saskatchewan woman living in Denver was able to visit her dying father after her 14-day isolation period was waived by the provincial government, but she says there needs to be a simplified process in place moving forward.

Leah Phillips said she faced nothing but frustration as she tried to secure the waiver herself.

Despite numerous calls with health officials and the province, Phillips was told the only way she could see her father is if she had a waiver from Premier Scott Moe's office or the Ministry of Health. 

On Sunday, after CBC published an account of the family's concerns, the province reached out to the family to help facilitate further access for Leah to her dad in hospital on compassionate grounds, but her husband was not permitted. 

Phillips said while she was pleased with the end result, something needs to be done to ensure other families do not go through what she experienced. 

"Saskatchewan is lucky enough to be a small enough province that they have the manpower and the people to be able to handle these extreme cases on a case-by-case basis," she said. "We had to go to extremely great lengths in order to make this happen and not everyone has the ability, or the time, to manage a critically ill family member and manage dealing with the government." 

Phillips was able to visit her father, John Phillips, on Sunday afternoon and said the protocols she had to follow were strict. Personal protective equipment was worn  throughout, hand-sanitizer was used at every transition and there was no contact between her and her father or any of his belongings.

Phillips said her case shows the process can be done safely for extreme cases and she'd like to see the process streamlined. She wants to see clear steps on how to apply for a waiver, who to speak with, and more accessibility to healthcare leaders for families in extreme situations, as she feels the story being highlighted publicly is what "got the ball rolling." 

John Phillips is terminally ill and receiving treatment at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. His children, Carson and Leah, asked the provincial government for a waiver on the 14-day self-isolation requirements for Leah, who drove 16-hours from Denver, so she can see her dad and support him in his time of need. (Leah Phillips)

Phillips said the initial scenario was "heartbreaking" as while she was only blocks away from her father, she was unable to see him due to the 14-day isolation period. 

Before the waiver was granted Leah's brother, Carson Phillips, said he felt common sense was not prevailing.'He said the province should have been able to meet the family somewhere in the middle, as Leah and her husband both were tested and shared their results before entering the hospital. 

On Sunday, Leah said being able to see her father was a "big sigh of relief." 

A grief expert in Saskatoon said it's important for families to be with a loved one in their final days, since it's the first step in the grieving process. 

"It's preparation in the brain," said Luciene Poole, who has been working as a counselor in Saskatoon — specializing in grief and anxiety — for more than two decades.

"The more we're able to talk, the more we're able to solidify some of that for ourselves, what we end up doing is accepting some of it," she said. "There's still a shock when the loss happens, but it's a matter of being able to talk some of that out ... and talking out means talking to other family members, as well as the person that is dying."

Earlier in June, the Government of Saskatchewan relaxed restrictions around visitors to Saskatchewan Health Authority facilities, as while visitors were originally prohibited, they've now been allowed for "compassionate care reasons." 

This includes family members or support people during end-of-life care, major surgery, or intensive and critical care, with the visitors subject to extensive screening and requirements, like wearing a mask while inside.

"We recognize how difficult this is for patients and families, but this decision is guided by the need to protect our patients and health care teams during COVID-19," explained the Government of Saskatchewan's guidelines for healthcare facilities.