Terrible MOH decisions over-ruled by a Judge

I got quite mad reading this High Court judgment allowing a Oliver Christiansen to be allowed to see his terminally ill father. It is disgisting that he had to go all the way to court to battle the Ministry of Health on this.

The Ministry not only showed repeated ignorance of the law they were meant to be interpreting, but also lacked common sense and compassion in my opinion.

Here’s my brief summary:

  • Christiansen flies home on 23 April from UK to see his father who has brain cancer. His prognosis suddenly shortened and had only days to live.
  • OC applied to travel from his quarantine hotel to his family home where his father was spending his final days. The only other people there were his mother, two sisters and a pallative case nurse for a short time every day
  • OC asked to be tested for Covid-19 but refused as he had no symptoms
  • OC offered conditions such as travelling alone in a private car, quarantining and cleaning the vehicle, only staying at his father’s house until his death, then returning to quarantine and wearing PPE
  • The Ministry of Health declined his application to travel three times. The 1st time because he didn’t for the criteria for a medical transfer. The second time because he himself wasn’t critically ill. The third time because he didn’t have serious medical conditions
  • All three times the Ministry fucked up. They didn’t actually look at the actual health order passed by the Director-General but instead tried to fit him into a category based on their website info.
  • The DG’s order explicitly states you can apply for travel from quarantine on compassionate grounds. This is the criteria he applied under three times, and not once did the MoH actually assess his application on these grounds. He spent days battling them and having to go to court while his father lay dying without him.
  • OC went back to MOH and pointed out his application was on compassionate, not medical grounds. Yet time and time again they either didn’t understand or God knows what.
  • OC even resorted to e-mailing the DG of Health and the Minister. This got referred back to the same team who again denied it.
  • OC even told the DG that the problem was the team was not considering it on compassionate grounds as the DG had not delegated them that authority. He was helpfully pointing out what their problem was, and how to fix it.
  • The Judge found that the Ministry of Health made serious errors of law in not considering it on the available grounds. She also found they failed to take into account mandatory relevant considerations.
  • The Judge noted also that OC is completely asymptomatic, has his health checked every few days and tried multiple times to get a Covid-19 test taken.
  • The Judge also noted it was hard to imagine a better case for compassionate grounds than a parent likely to die within days

As the Judge said it is hard to imagine a more compelling case. The fact that MOH rejected his application not once but three times is basically appalling. This should not have been even a borderline call. The risks were minimal and manageable and the potential harm to OC and his family immense by preventing him to see his dying family.

Thankfully we do have a judiciary that can over-ride capricious decision making by the executive. It is a good reminder of why we should beware granting such huge powers.

And the Ministry of Health should apologise to the Christiansen family for forcing them to go to court because they were incapable to correctly following their own law.

Sadly it seems this is not an isolated case. Stuff reports that there have been a total of 24 requests to visit a dying relative and the Ministry of Health declined all 24 of them. So much for kindness.

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