On Wednesday, the Epidemic Response Committee heard some of the sacrifices New Zealanders made under the strict lockdown rules, including Jennifer Rouse who reflected on the day she was diagnosed with cancer.
She told the committee she experienced “overwhelming distress and anxiety added to a life-threatening breast cancer diagnosis” on the day of lockdown.
Rouse was forced to pay $15,000 for a mastectomy after being warned of the wait for a free public surgery, which she said was “almost all my savings so it does leave me vulnerable”.
Face-to-face consultations have been replaced by phone calls, and the impact of that was highlighted by Cancer Society Medical Director Chris Jackson.
“I had to speak with one young mum and tell her over the telephone that her cancer had returned and she was incurable and that she was going to die from her illness,” Jackson told the committee.
“Normally, you’d be able to sit with her and her family and support people in an environment and work through things carefully and gently. We’ve had to do that by telephone.”
The committee also heard about a woman who was forced to learn she had miscarried, alone, with her husband waiting for two hours in the hospital car park – also alone.
“From the car park where we said our goodbyes my wife was then left to navigate alone through the halls of a fairly empty hospital, finding her way to the ultrasound, be scanned and told by medical staff that her pregnancy had no heartbeat,” husband Bjorn Reymer said.
“She was then given a box of tissues and left in the scanning room alone to gain her composure and proceed to the next stages of the miscarriage.”
The committee also heard from David Moger, chief executive of New Zealand Funeral Directors, who told MPs about an 18-year-old son who had tragically took his own life during lockdown.
“The last view of their son that their parents had was him being taken away from that scene and they were unable to then subsequently see and view, as would normally be the case, their son at peace.”
MPs also heard from a Wellington mum who had her partner – her support – taken away straight after giving birth, which she said felt “inhumane”.
She was unable to have the natural water birth she had planned.
“I felt disempowered like my body was not my own, like I had no choice in the way in which I birthed, I felt like an animal.”
Some of these situations may have been unavoidable but not all of them were. The decision to requires partners of women giving birth to leave hospitals straight after birth was inflexible inhumane bureaucracy of the sort that also denied a man permission to see his dying father.
Good Government is about weighing up risk vs harm, not blindly saying no to everything.