Update: Essentia reverses course after VNL report allowing family to visit cancer patient
(Update 9:01 p.m.) - Essentia Health is reversing course after our Whistleblower story aired.
The hospital told Rachel Safer her family could visit her father 52-year-old Cory Refshaw Thursday night after he underwent emergency surgery for stage four colon cancer.
Safar said that Essentia's president called her mom saying one person at a time can visit Refshaw. They'll provided her family with N95 masks.
Refshaw is at the Fargo hospital recovering from the procedure, which he had Thursday afternoon.
Essentia also issued a statement in response to our story:
"Our top priority is the safety and well-being of all of our patients, staff and the communities we are privileged to serve. Throughout the day, care teams at Essentia Health plan to individually evaluate all critically ill and end-of-life patients to assess specific visitor needs with careful consideration for keeping our patients and staff safe and considering the emotional well-being of our patients."
(Original 6:30 p.m.) - A Minnesota family is challenging a Fargo hospital’s policy against allowing visitors for patients.
Rachel Safar contacted our Whistleblower Hotline saying her father 52-year-old Corey Refshaw underwent emergency surgery Thursday after being diagnosed this week with stage four colon cancer.
“I've never, ever seen my dad cry before, and that was the worst day of my life, was watching him cry over Zoom and not being able to hold his hand,” Safar said.
Safar said her father is an active guy. He’s a farmer in Mahnomen and tends to keep busy.
“My dad has always been so healthy and just a rock within our family. I never ever expected this,” Safar said.
They noticed something was up with Refshaw when he began losing a lot of weight without trying and experiencing body pains.
It wasn’t until a recent visit to a clinic, however, that his family received grim news.
“They found that he had a large tumor in his colon,” Safar said. “Tumors on his liver and spots on his kidneys, lymph nodes, and abdomen.”
His wife dropped him off Monday at Essentia’s emergency room. After parking her vehicle, his wife was told she couldn’t go inside due to a policy barring visitors
The diagnosis of stage four colon cancer was a devastating blow for the family.
“He's a very strong guy. He's a fighter. He's trying to stay positive but he's very scared,” Safar said.
Essentia Health has implemented a policy prohibiting visitors from its hospitals because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sanford Hospital had a similar rule up
The family held signs in front of Essentia Wednesday and Thursday wanting to come inside and visit their loved one. Safar said Essentia should do what Sanford did.
“Mental health is crucial in fighting disease and you need your family with you,” Safar said.
In a statement, Essentia said it can’t comment on specific cases due to patient privacy. Yet, they’re policy is in place to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
The hospital also stated it’s continually reviewing its visitor policy.
According to health experts, stage four colon cancer is deadly with a short life expectancy.
“We don’t want anybody else in this situation to go through, what we're going through right now. We want other people to be able to see their family members,” Safar said.
Safar added that her father always wanted to be a grandpa, and late last year, she was able to deliver him a granddaughter.
She hopes he’s around long-enough to watch her daughter grow.
Refshaw’s surgery was successful on Thursday afternoon, according to Safar. He had his colon removed and must undergo chemotherapy.
Below is Essentia’s full statement.
Our commitment to patient privacy prevents us from sharing any specific information. Our top priority is the safety and well-being of all of our patients, staff and the communities we are privileged to serve. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Essentia Health has made the difficult decision to restrict visitors at our hospitals and clinics. This is being done to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission. We recognize how difficult restrictions on visitation can be for our patients and their families.
We are continually reviewing our visitor policy with careful consideration for keeping our patients and staff safe and considering the emotional well-being of our patients.
Staff understand how hard this is and do all they can to encourage and support family members using alternative methods of communication with patients, such as phone calls, Facetime, Skype or other digital channels.