As an elderly cane farmer deals with the shock of having his leg amputated, his family have been fighting for the right to visit him, writes Kylie Lang.
As an elderly cane farmer deals with the shock of having his leg amputated, his family have been fighting for the right to visit him, writes Kylie Lang.

Elderly couple were forced apart for first time in 58 years

OPINION

It's the first time in 58 years of marriage that Gil and Ann Harvey haven't been by each other's side, and the pain of forced separation is great.

For three long weeks, Mrs Harvey and her daughter Kim Brown have been fighting to see Mr Harvey, who was flown from Bundaberg to Brisbane for emergency surgery that resulted in the unexpected amputation of his left leg.

"It's such a horrible feeling, I don't think I've ever felt so helpless," Ms Brown, 56, says.

"Mum misses him terribly and we couldn't be there to comfort him - the trauma of losing a leg was a big shock, especially for a man like Dad."

Gil and Ann Harvey, of Bundaberg, on their wedding day in 1962. Photo: supplied.
Gil and Ann Harvey, of Bundaberg, on their wedding day in 1962. Photo: supplied.

Mr Harvey, who will mark his 89th birthday tomorrow in Greenslopes Private Hospital, 450km from home, has worked hard all his life.

A former police officer, his dream was to be a farmer, and he cut cane from sunup to sundown on other people's farms, to make it happen.

But in the last year or so he's had a few health problems that he hasn't much bothered about until now because he's been caring for his wife, who at 80 has Parkinson's disease.

"Mum and Dad are inseparable," says Ms Brown, "and I've been so angry at constantly being told we are not allowed to visit.

"I understand COVID safety but you've got to have some compassion, and it's not like we've been asking for 10 people to turn up at Dad's bedside," says Ms Brown, a finance manager in a medical practice in Bundaberg.

"Annastacia (Palaszczuk) and her rules are not just confusing but also frustrating because there are double standards, it's so unfair, and many other families we know are in the same boat."

Ann and Gil Harvey in 2018. Photo: supplied.
Ann and Gil Harvey in 2018. Photo: supplied.

Mrs Harvey, who describes her husband as the "hardest worker I have ever known", says she just wants to see him.

"I really miss him, and I don't like to think of him down there on his own."

The couple met in Goondiwindi in the early 60s when Mr Harvey was a young policeman and she was a bank teller.

"He swept me off my feet at a progressive barn dance, and we've been together ever since, he's an old smoocher," Mrs Harvey said.

"I know when he comes home he'll give it a good go at rehab. I think of soldiers who come from with terrible injuries, and how young they are, and we are lucky to still have him around."

I learned of the Harveys' plight through a friend of the family's, following my column here last week.

Calling out the "cold-hearted approach the government has to visits", the man said he believed "it is this type of treatment of people that is majorly contributing to the rise in mental health issues. It is just unbelievable what is happening to people."

Indeed it is.

Elena Turner, from northern NSW, said the Premier needed to "be more compassionate" after she was bluntly refused an exemption to attend her son's funeral in Logan on Tuesday.

"My grandkids never got to see their father before he died because of the hospital doors being shut," Ms Turner said.

While the 72-year-old, who lives in Gulmarrad where there are no coronavirus cases, was allowed to view her son's body on Monday, she was not able to touch him because she was covered in PPE (personal protective equipment).

Days earlier, Sarah Caisip was forced to wear the same onerous gear to say goodbye to her father after also being denied permission to attend his funeral, despite coming from COVID-free Canberra.

And the Queensland Government's border exemptions for medical emergencies have also come under fire, with Ballina woman Kimberley Brown losing an unborn twin after waiting 16 hours for a care flight to Sydney when doctors wanted her in a Brisbane hospital.

People over the border are not aliens, they're Australians.

Yet Ms Palaszczuk has remained unapologetic since declaring four weeks ago that "in Queensland, we have Queensland hospitals for our people".

She's acknowledged it is tragic that "families are not together at the moment" but says Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young is responsible for the decisions and she cannot overrule them.

She's also done what she's told others not to - leave home when unwell (to attend a funeral, no less) and not get immediately tested.

No wonder ordinary Queenslanders are confused and frustrated.

Giving exemptions to celebrities, footballers and anyone with enough coin also makes a mockery of the Premier saying she's "working so hard to protect Queenslanders".

In a last minute silver lining, Ms Brown was notified by Greenslopes Private Hospital that she and her mother could visit Mr Harvey, for one hour, tomorrow.

"While the government gives an edict hospitals have to follow, it seems to come down to individual people's discretion," Ms Brown says.

"I've fought for weeks, and then someone, for some reason, finally says OK, you can have an hour, it's bizarre."

It is that, and more.

LOVE

The prediction by Flight Centre boss Graham 'Scroo' Turner that Queensland's borders could open to NSW within weeks. We needed this to happen yesterday.

Teachers getting two days' 'pandemic leave'. Good teachers put in long hours, that parents don't see, and this year has piled on extra stress.

The Petals and Pups program at this month's Toowoomba's Carnival of Flowers. Combining nature's finest specimens.

LOATHE

That if Scroo Turner's right, then the borders reopening will be used by Labor to puff out its chest in time for the October 31 election.

Alleged death threats against the Premier and Chief Health Officer. Not OK, under any circumstances.

The thought of LNP preferencing the hapless, infantile Greens ahead of Labor when Queenslanders go to the polls.

Originally published as Elderly couple were forced apart for first time in 58 years

Gil Harvey with grandson Ben Brown in Bundaberg Base Hospital before his transfer to Greenslopes. Photo: supplied.
Gil Harvey with grandson Ben Brown in Bundaberg Base Hospital before his transfer to Greenslopes. Photo: supplied.
The Harveys in their younger days. Photo: supplied.
The Harveys in their younger days. Photo: supplied.

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