An Australian woman has been granted permission to rush home from New York and leave hotel quarantine early to visit her dying father in hospital – while another was forced to say goodbye to her dad over Skype.
Anna Coffey, 32, flew to Sydney from New York last week after her 80-year-old father John suffered a stroke and went into palliative care in a Melbourne hospital.
She was allowed to leave her hotel quarantine early after three negative tests and after securing a charter flight.
‘I got two hours to visit, it was very strict,’ she said. ‘But it was absolutely worth it, a thousand times over,’ she told the Telegraph.
The decision is in stark contrast to the choice made for Gillan Hannah, who also flew home from the US to see her dying father, only to have her appeal for an early release rejected despite being double vaccinated – instead watching him die over Skype.
Charity Angel Flight donated a charter plane to help Ms Coffey fly back to Melbourne to see her father in St Vincent’s Hospital – which proved the difference for the 32-year-old and other rejected appeals – including that of Ms Hannah’s.
State governments have only approved situations on compassionate grounds if the person has sourced a charter flight as they are unable to sit on a plane with other Australians.
Anna Coffey, 32, flew to Sydney from New York last week after her 80-year-old father John suffered a stroke and went into palliative care in a Melbourne hospital
But Angel Flight Australia, a charity involved in co-ordinating non-emergency medical flights, offered to pay for her flights to Melbourne – reuniting Ms Coffey with her dying dad
Ms Coffey flew home after her 80-year-old father suffered a stroke and doctors said he didn’t have long to live.
She was initially hoping to drive from Sydney to Melbourne but NSW Health told her the ‘travel time’ by car to Melbourne was too far – as she would need to stop to refuel and eat – and she would instead be forced to shell out $7,500 for a private plane.
‘The difference in your situation is that the travel time by road from Sydney to Melbourne is approximately nine hours plus stops and you would need to travel through both NSW and Victoria,’ an email from NSW Health said.
Ms Coffey (pictured) had feared she would not make it to Melbourne in time if she was forced to complete the required 14 days in Sydney quarantine
But Angel Flight Australia, a charity involved in co-ordinating non-emergency medical flights, came to her rescue in a plan confirmed on Tuesday night.
She was released from hotel quarantine at about midday on Wednesday and landed at Essendon Airport in suburban Melbourne later that afternoon.
Ms Coffey had feared she would not make it to Melbourne in time to be reunited with John if she was forced to complete the required 14 days in Sydney quarantine.
Angel Flight Australia orchestrates about 50 compassionate flights a year, many often reuniting parents with sick children.
Although it is the other way around in this case, Chief executive Marjorie Pagani immediately recognised she fit the criteria to be offered a compassionate flight.
‘This young lady has already spent a fortune getting home to Australia and then to be asked to find another $7000 to $8000 is a lot,’ she said.
‘I’m so glad we could help out and get it done so quickly.’
Anna Coffey, 32, (left) flew to Sydney from New York last week after her 80-year-old father John (right) suffered a stroke and went into palliative care in a Melbourne hospital.
The woman was escorted from her room to a car downstairs and to the airport, with a police car following behind.
Ms Coffey was told to wear full PPE including a mask and face shield, and was instructed not to touch anyone, including her mother.
‘Dad slept for most of it but toward the end we could speak a little bit,’ she said.
She says she was shocked by the amount of red tape needed given she was double vaccinated, even finding out her father’s nurse had only been given her first shot.
‘It was worth it … but it’s caused such a huge drama and so many people had to be involved to make a relatively simple thing happen,’ Ms Coffey said.
The 32-year-old said she hopes the process can become easier and more streamlined to allow for other compassionate grounds to be granted for people to avoid hotel quarantine – legislation that came too late for Ms Hannah.
The devastated daughter was forced to farewell her beloved dad over FaceTime after she got stuck in hotel quarantine in Sydney.
Ms Hannah, who lived in Madison, Wisconsin, immediately returned to Australia after hearing news her father’s lungs were shutting down.
She is fully vaccinated and tested negative to Covid-19 twice after arriving in Australia, however her application for a compassionate exemption to travel from Sydney to Melbourne to see her dad in hospital was denied.
US-based Australian Gillian Hannah got stuck in hotel quarantine in Sydney and was denied a compassionate exemption to see her dying dad in a Melbourne hospital
Ms Hannah was forced to say goodbye to her beloved father (pictured) over FaceTime despite being fully vaccinated against and testing negative to Covid-19 twice since her arrival
‘I just FaceTimed him. He’s on a lot of medication and he sort of knew who I was but it was vague,’ she told 7NEWS after her father died on Thursday morning.
‘I said what I needed to say and that’s the last moments I get with him.’
Just hours later her father passed away, leaving his daughter only with memories of a remote communication.
Ms Hannah had been advised she could charter a plane to Victoria but was not allowed to travel on a regular flight with other passengers.
‘I don’t have $10,000 just lying around’, she explained.
‘I asked if I could drive down and they said absolutely not, we would never approve that.’
The heartbroken daughter posted a photo of her father on Facebook, with friends and family sharing their condolences in the comments.
‘I’m so sorry you were prevented from seeing your dad by heartless bureaucrats. Someone had the power and they have utterly failed you and your family’, one said.
‘I am devastated for you Gil. I don’t even know what to say. No words can make this situation any better’, another wrote.
‘This is beyond heartbreaking, I am so sorry you didn’t get to kiss you dad goodbye – a simple wish you weren’t granted’, a third commented.
Angel Flight Australia orchestrates about 50 compassionate flights a year, many often reuniting parents with sick children, immediately recognised Ms Coffey met their criteria
The Columbia Business student was fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and has tested negative to the virus but struggled to receive exemptions from NSW and Victoria health departments
Of hearing of Ms Coffey’s heart-wrenching ordeal, Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed his sympathies in a letter and said he hopes a ‘solution can be found’.
‘To be so close to home but to still be so far away from being able to see your father must be heartbreaking,’ he said.
‘I farewelled my own father last year and I know how important those last moments are.’
Mr Morrison, who has no control over state quarantine policies, is now reaching out to the Australian Health Principal Protection Committee to draw up a more consistent plan to deal with compassionate exemptions for those blocked from seeing critically ill loved ones.
Last week, US citizen Mark Kilian was reunited with his dying father at a Gold Coast hospital after spending eight days in quarantine and hiring a $15,000 chartered jet to fly up from Sydney.