A grieving family has been left heartbroken after a desperate attempt to farewell their dying mother failed because Queensland’s health authorities took “days” to process their “urgent” border application.
Now they’re fighting for their right to organise and attend the funeral.
Glenn Lyons and his wife Kelly are mourning the death of his 83-year-old mother Marion who died on Wednesday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Her condition deteriorated rapidly on Sunday and the family, who reside in coronavirus-free ACT, urgently applied for a border exemption to enter the sunny state.
But their desperate attempt to catch Marion’s final breath laid in the hands of Queensland authorities.
“Every minute was a minute we didn’t think she’d be alive,” Kelly, Marion’s daughter-in-law, told NCA NewsWire.
She filed a complaint with the Queensland government after submitting an application explaining her husband’s “mother was dying and not expected to survive much longer”.
“I followed up about midday (Monday) and spoke with someone who said they would flag the application as urgent and I could expect a call from health authorities later in the day,” Kelly said.
She passed on the same advice to her sister-in-law Kerrie and her husband Wayne Lyons — Marion’s son.
“Neither of us received a return call on Monday,” Kelly said.
Kelly was driving on Tuesday morning when she missed four calls from a “No Caller” ID, which a voice message confirmed to be Queensland Health, but the person did not leave a return number.
She then began the familiar process of calling the COVID-19 hotline and explaining her situation to another employee.
To make matters more heartbreaking, Kelly said Kerrie was told she would not be granted permission to enter Queensland unless a doctor could provide evidence that their mother was on her deathbed.
“She was incredibly upset at this tepid response and told them that at no time did any person stipulate this,” Kelly said.
By Wednesday morning, the family’s application still hadn’t been processed.
Kelly explained Wayne and Kerrie travelled to the Queensland border where they planned to wait for their application to come through.
When it finally did on Wednesday evening, there was one small fault, which meant the couple were turned away at the border.
“It had air travel listed instead of road travel, so he (Wayne) was turned away. Their mum died an hour later. It’s really disgusting,” Kelly said.
“The thing that has really upset us is that (the border measures are) immoral. It’s inconsistent.”
Wayne, who is a contractor and would lose 14 days’ income if he were to enter Queensland and quarantine, was forced to make the devastating decision to turnaround and return to his south Sydney home with wife Kerrie.
The couple will watch Marion’s funeral via livestream.
“His main purpose was to see his mum before she died and say his goodbyes,” Kelly said.
“Losing 14 days of work and paying thousands ($3710) for mandatory hotel quarantine was just so incredibly stressful for him.”
Kelly and Glenn’s permits arrived on Wednesday afternoon. They stated they could visit Glenn’s mother in her aged care home but there was no mention of being able to organise or attend her funeral, which came as a shock to the pair.
Current health guidelines state that leaving hotel quarantine to attend a funeral is not allowed as it exposes a person to various other individuals.
“Firstly, I told them she was dying so it’s not a case of popping into the aged care home for a coffee,” she said.
“So that was baffling that they didn’t include anything on the provision for arranging a funeral, which is my husband’s job.”
Now Kelly is once again playing the waiting game. She and Glenn need permits to arrive before their flight on Friday evening to Queensland, where they will quarantine while organising Marion’s funeral, but whether they can attend remains highly unlikely.
“We have no idea if we will be able to organise the funeral directly,” she said.
Glenn described his mother, who lived on Norfolk Island until her ill health forced her to the mainland, as a “kind, caring, adventurous and shy”.
In addition to her two sons Glenn and Wayne, she had a daughter, who would prefer not to be named.
“Marion definitely loved and lived the island way,” Kelly said.
“She was the most beautiful soul, very gentle and just a beautiful person inside and out.”
Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young has refused to budge on the state’s tough stance on quarantine and funerals.
She said there had already been several coronavirus clusters related to funerals in Sydney and she did not want to see that happen in Queensland.
“They’re a very, very risky environment for spread of the virus because of the nature of the service and what happens,” she said.
“I don’t want to see Queenslanders dying from COVID-19 that I could have prevented.”
NCA NewsWire has contacted Queensland Health for comment on the individual case.
Kelly opened up about her family’s heartbreak as a 26-year-old woman from Canberra begged the Queensland Premier to allow her to attend her father’s funeral.
Sarah Caisip applied for an exemption in August to visit her ill father Bernard Prendergast in Brisbane but it took almost three weeks to get approved and he sadly died of liver cancer two days before her flight.