Regional hospitals are barring fully vaccinated visitors for fear of staff shortages

For about a month, Sandy Beach’s only contact with her partner at a regional hospital in Victoria was through a small screen of a tablet.

Two weeks after Bob Campbell Burns suffered a severe stroke on August 19, Mrs. Beach was told he was no longer allowed to visit her.

“That was the last time I saw him,” she said.

“We can communicate via Skype or Facetime sometimes but if [hospital] The staff doesn’t know how to use the iPad, and we can’t see it.”

Mr. Campbell Burns owns his own room in the Heart and Stroke Unit at Ballarat Peace Hospital where four caregivers take care of him every day.

However, Ms Beach said she was asked to bring scissors on her upcoming visit as staff were not allowed to cut his nails for health and safety reasons.

Ballarat Health Services has apologized for the inconvenience of its restrictions, but its CEO says they are necessary.(

ABC: Dominic Kansdale

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Employee protection restrictions

Ms Beach, who has been fully vaccinated, said it was difficult watching people go out for picnics while she was unable to help care for her partner in hospital.

“I think this is in bad taste,” she said.

Ballarat Health Services CEO Dale Fraser has apologized for the inconvenience and distress the tougher visitor restrictions have caused families, but said a cautious approach was needed at “unique times”.

“Our greatest fear is [having] Exposure that affects our employees, we lose 100, 200 or 300 employees, and then that affects services elsewhere,” Mr. Fraser told ABC Ballarat.

Mr Fraser said that while decisions were based on medical advice, the hospital had made “as many concessions as possible”.

There are 29 active cases of COVID-19 in Ballarat, but the city hospital is preparing to become a streaming hospital for infected patients as restrictions are eased in the state.

Visitors are only allowed for end-of-life reasons, as a birth support partner, or parent accompanying a child.

Portrait of a woman in a white shirt with a man outstretched on the beach
Sandy Beach, pictured with her partner Bob Campbell Burns, wants to visit him in person.(

Supplied: Mahalia Sweeney

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Finally the daughter was allowed to visit

Ms Beech said she is prepared to wear any required personal protective equipment or even a Hazmat suit.

“I know it sounds like an exaggeration but now he’s on antidepressants,” she said.

Beach’s daughter Mahalia spent $8,000 and two weeks in hotel quarantine to fly from the UK after Campbell Burns’ stroke.

She was allowed to visit him this week for the first time, after filing complaints with the hospital.

“The virus is not going to go away and there are people dying in hospitals and nursing homes just because of heartache and loneliness and we just have to learn to live with it,” Ms Beach said.

The Victorian Department of Health allows regional hospitals to make their own decisions about restrictions on visitors.

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