Christchurch man denied trip home to see dying father

The funeral for Bruce Paterson, who died aged 75, will be held on Thursday in Ashburton. Photo:...
The funeral for Bruce Paterson, who died aged 75, will be held on Thursday in Ashburton. Photo: Supplied
A Christchurch man living in Europe was denied an emergency MIQ spot the day before his father died from terminal cancer.

Darin Paterson received news last week that his father was gravely ill and was sent home from Ashburton Hospital.

Paterson applied for an emergency MIQ voucher, which included a letter of support from his father's medical practitioner, and booked a ticket home from Latvia, only to be turned down and told to reapply.

Darin Paterson lives near the Baltic Sea and works as a property developer.

He previously lived in Christchurch but left after his home was badly affected by the 2011 earthquake.

Three weeks ago, his father Bruce Paterson was diagnosed with a cancer tumour. He was admitted to Ashburton Hospital on October 1, but doctors found the cancer had spread to his lungs, liver, spleen, and brain.

They were left with the only option of palliative care and pain management.

Darin Paterson (middle) with his dad Bruce in a family photo spreading across four generations....
Darin Paterson (middle) with his dad Bruce in a family photo spreading across four generations. Photo: Supplied
Paterson immediately applied for an emergency MIQ voucher last Wednesday to get home and see his dad before he died.

He booked a flight two days later, on Friday, October 7, expecting to be granted an emergency room.

In his MIQ application, he included a letter from his father's doctor, seeking "compassionate consideration for flights for relative" so he could "support his father in the last stages of his life".

The letter listed his father's condition as "terminal", that he was in palliative care, and that "end of life planning has commenced".

'"Given these extenuating circumstances, we would appreciate your kind and compassionate consideration of his son's return back into the country and consider it with some urgency given the rate of deterioration".

Three days later Darin Paterson was turned down by the MIQ Emergency Allocation Team.

They told him that the wording from his father's doctor was not adequate and that he would need to resubmit the correct information.

It said: "Anyone applying for an emergency allocation under this category needs to supply a letter from a medical practitioner stating the close relative's medical condition is terminal and their life expectancy is six months or less.

"Unfortunately your application does not include evidence from a medical practitioner that confirms the life expectancy of your close relative."

His father passed away the following day, aged 75.

Paterson had spoken to his father for an hour last Saturday, "describing the funny things that happened (to) them in the past".

"He was ready to go and I just wish I could have been there to say goodbye."

On Monday, Paterson emailed Jacinda Ardern directly, imploring her to change the Government policy for re-entry to New Zealand, saying it "simply is not fair".

He told the prime minister an "emergency request should not take this long and my father died on Sunday morning, one week from being diagnosed as terminal and enough time for me to return from Latvia to see him".

Paterson was fully vaccinated and willing to self-isolate for two weeks.

He says the Government "dropped the ball" and questioned how sportspeople, entertainers and politicians get special treatment above someone wishing to see their dying parent for one last time.

Yesterday the prime minister's office replied, saying "we are sorry to hear about your father" and "it (must) be a difficult time for you".

It said they had passed on his concerns to the minister responsible for Covid-19 response, Chris Hipkins, "to ensure that you hear back from someone as soon as possible".

The funeral for his father will be held in Ashburton tomorrow.

Paterson said he will watch it online and give a video eulogy, but he will miss not being with family and friends and a chance to laugh about the times they had together.

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