Woman’s heartbreak as relative with terminal cancer can’t visit housing complex

Mary Bartlett, from Norwich, with her husband. They have been unable to see a family member with ter

Mary Bartlett, from Norwich, with her husband. They have been unable to see a family member with terminal cancer. Picture: Mary Bartlett - Credit: Archant

A 73-year-old woman has voiced her heartbreak at being banned from letting a loved one with terminal cancer visit, leaving her feeling like a prisoner in her home.

Mary Bartlett and her husband live at this home at The Great Hospital in Norwich. Picture: Bartlett

Mary Bartlett and her husband live at this home at The Great Hospital in Norwich. Picture: Bartlett Family - Credit: Archant

Mary Bartlett and her husband, 84, live in a one-bedroom property at The Great Hospital, a charity and sheltered housing and care village in Bishopgate in Norwich.

But despite current coronavirus regulations in Norfolk, where the rule of six applies, Mrs Bartlett has not been able have people over since the start of the pandemic - including a family member who has terminal cancer.

The Great Hospital said its priority was keeping people safe, and said the “vast majority” of residents did not mind the rules.

Mrs Bartlett, a tenant there, said: “The only person I want to be able have round at home is this one family member as I don’t know how long they’ve got left to live.

The Great Hospital in Bishopgate, Norwich. Picture: Sonya Duncan

The Great Hospital in Bishopgate, Norwich. Picture: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan


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“I want to be there for them after scans and hospital appointments. I feel absolutely terrible. We shouldn’t have to live like this.”

Instead, visitors must make appointments in advance to meet in a communal room on site.

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Mrs Bartlett said: “We’re not comfortable meeting in the meeting room as other people could be in there and it would be much safer to come directly to my home.

“I just don’t understand the logic. If there was a clear safety reason we couldn’t have them over, or it was the guidelines, we would of course agree with it. But the current arrangements are just ridiculous.”

Andrew Barnes, the chief executive of The Great Hospital in Bishopgate. Picture: Sonya Duncan

Andrew Barnes, the chief executive of The Great Hospital in Bishopgate. Picture: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Mrs Bartlett said the issue came to a head when a security guard was employed two weeks ago.

She added: “Why do you need a security guard for an old people’s village? It’s just ridiculous. I feel like a prisoner in my home.”

Andrew Barnes, master and chief executive of the Great Hospital, said: “We do understand that some families may not be happy with the current visiting protocols we have in place, but throughout this pandemic our number one priority has been to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of our more than 150 residents and staff in line with current government guidance regarding Covid-19.”

He said the social space they had created allowed friends and family to stay connected to their loved ones, and said the “vast majority” of residents and families have been reassured by the arrangement.

Mr Barnes added: “No-one has been banned from having visitors, but we are asking that residents meet their friends and family in the safe space provided, rather than their own flats. This is so we can properly manage the flow of visitors on site at any one time and ensure we minimise the threat Covid-19 poses to our community as much as we can.

“The age profile of our residents is such that they are vulnerable to the consequences of the disease and so we must do all we can to protect them in what is a very close-knit community.

“All our residents are free to come and go from our site as they please and we are grateful for their patience and understanding at what we know is a difficult time.”

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