From a public health standpoint, a stringent visitation policy was necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it had unforeseen communicative and emotional health consequences for family members. This study explored family members' experiences regarding implementing a restricted visitation policy when a patient was admitted with COVID-19 at public hospitals in the Vhembe district. Researchers used an exploratory, descriptive, and contextual qualitative technique. Twelve family members made up the population. Unstructured telephone interviews were used to obtain the data, and open coding was used to analyse data. Ethics were consistently followed. Before taking part, participants provided verbal informed consent, acknowledging that they could withdraw from the study if necessary. Three themes emerged: inadequate measures for temporary communication channels and techniques, the mental health effects of COVID-19 admission, and poor/lack of standardised visitation policy during the COVID 19-pandemic. There was a need to balance safety from contracting COVID-19 infection and promoting family-centred care. Virtual visits through telecommunication solutions could reduce fear and anxiety as the family could be updated on the progress of the hospitalised relative. Alternatively, hospital managers must allocate a dedicated person in the unit to update families when they call and enquire about the conditions.
Keywords: communication; consequences of COVID-19; family members; family-centred care; restrictive visitation policy.