A northern NSW grandmother’s desperate plea to bury her son in Logan has been callously rebuffed via email, as Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk continued to shirk responsibility for a series of heartless border decisions.
Elena Turner, 72, had begged Queensland Health officials to be allowed to drive into Queensland for a matter of hours so she could bury her son, 49-year-old Wayne Turner.
The grieving grandmother, who had already lost two of her children during her lifetime, received a cold-hearted email in reply rejecting her request, saying: “I draw your attention to the Queensland Border restrictions Directions which will prevent your entry to Queensland.”
It came just hours after national outcry over the treatment of Sarah Caisip, who was denied permission to attend her father’s funeral with her 11-year-old sister and mother, despite coming from coronavirus-free Canberra.
Ms Turner’s “larrikin” son Wayne Turner, 49, died this week in Redland Hospital after a series of strokes he suffered in the past nine years took their toll.
His funeral is on Tuesday in Logan, and she lives about three hours’ drive away in Gulmarrad in regional NSW where there is no COVID-19.
Through her grief, Ms Turner said she could not fathom why she is not allowed to attend the funeral, coming from a COVID-free area to southeast Queensland where there are active cases.
“Anyone from Logan can get to that funeral and they don’t have any trouble. I would be less of a risk than anyone in the hot spots in Brisbane,” she said.
“I don’t understand it, I just don’t understand.
“I think they have got a machine that just goes ‘no, no, no’ on every application they get.”
She offered, in one application, to drive to the funeral without stopping, only exiting the car for the service, then driving straight back.
Instead, one departmental officer suggested she fly to Sydney, then to Brisbane where she could quarantine for two weeks, if the funeral was delayed.
“They said I could fly to Sydney where there are cases, then go to Brisbane,” Ms Turner said. “I was close to asking if I put a football jersey on would I be allowed in.”
Delaying the funeral for two weeks so she could enter quarantine would be too traumatic for Wayne’s four children, Ms Turner said.
Some of the exchanges with Queensland Health were more sympathetic, with offers of sincere condolences.
“Grief is not easy to manage under any circumstances and the measures needed to manage COVID-19 have not made the situation easier for our community to grieve,” one email stated.
But the email then delivered the devastating news that she could not enter Queensland without quarantining.
“Under the current funeral protocol, attendees who arrive from overseas or interstate are required to undertaken the 14-day period of quarantine prior to attending the funeral service,” the email stated.
“While I appreciate that this was not the answer that you were hoping for, the public health directions and other measures implemented to respond to COVID-19 have been critical.”
Mr Turner’s daughter, Reanna, 20, told Channel 7 her grandmother was “hurting and she wants to say goodbye to her son”.
It is understood Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office has made representations on her behalf.
Ms Turner’s story follows a string of other heartbreaking pleas for exemptions to attend funerals or visit sick loved ones that were also denied.
Speaking about compassionate exemptions and Ms Caisip, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said there were “heartbreaking and gut- wrenching” cases, but there was clinical advice that needed to be followed.
“We’re dealing with a health pandemic,” she said.
“It is absolutely tragic. It is heartbreaking. Families are not together at the moment.”
Ms Palaszczuk said Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young was responsible for the decisions and she could not overrule them.
A Queensland Health spokesperson said in response to multiple cases of desperate families attempting to cross the border: “We know this is tough, but this about preventing more people dying.
“We’ve seen what happens when things don’t go right in other states and other countries, and we’re working so hard to protect Queenslanders from those same consequences.”
The Queensland Government’s compassionate border exemptions have been under scrutiny since Ballina woman Kimberley Brown lost an unborn twin after being forced to wait 16 hours for a care flight to Sydney, when doctors had wanted her to go to a Brisbane hospital.
Ms Brown required surgery due to a rare pregnancy condition called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome.
Mr Morrison demanded a please-explain over the case, which came after Ms Palaszczuk controversially declared weeks earlier “in Queensland, we have Queensland hospitals for our people”.