Saying goodbye to someone you love is never easy — saying goodbye during a pandemic when you live interstate in lockdown is even harder.

Marlaina McPhillips, who lives in Melbourne, recently returned home to South Australia to say goodbye to her “favourite person”, her nanna.

But getting into Adelaide was never going to be easy given South Australia’s borders have been closed to Victoria due to the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Marlaina McPhillips was on the Bachelor in 2020.(Instagram: Marlaina McPhillips)

The former Bachelor contestant said applying to SA Health to enter the state was a lengthy process, but praised all the staff involved in making her visit happen.

End-of-life care at an aged care facility was arranged for Ms McPhillips’ nanna after she was hospitalised with renal failure.

Ms McPhillips decided on a Saturday morning to apply to SA Health for an exemption.

Before she even called the SA Health COVID-19 hotline, she had to get a letter from her nanna’s aged care facility to prove she would be allowed to visit.

She then spoke to a “very helpful” staff member on the COVID-19 hotline who helped Ms McPhillips put in an urgent application.

From there Ms McPhillips had to apply for a border pass, which was hard to do given she did not yet have her travel details, but despite all the hoops, by the afternoon an approval was emailed through.

Marlaina said her nanna was her favourite person.(Instagram: Marlaina McPhillips)

“It wasn’t as simple as you got your exemption ‘done’, there was a lot to still go through, apply for your boarding pass, we had to wait for a call from one of the medi-hotels,” she said.

Ms McPhillips’ number one priority was getting confirmation that she and her partner would not need to quarantine for 14 days, as they needed to be able to return home quickly.

Once that was confirmed, Ms McPhillips and her partner had to have a COVID-19 test on the Sunday afternoon, and the negative result came through just before they were due to board their flight the next morning.

Ms McPhillips said it was heartbreaking being separated from her family.(Supplied: Marlaina McPhillips)

Upon arrival into South Australia, the couple had a second COVID-19 test, which was marked as urgent, and they were then transported to their medi-hotel facility.

Once they received their second negative test, the couple was transported by SA Health to Ms McPhillips’ nanna’s aged care facility.

They had to be escorted by a nurse the whole time to ensure they adhered to strict rules, including social distancing and the use of personal protective equipment.

Ms McPhillips had to stand 1.5 metres away from her mother and sister.(Supplied: Marlaina McPhillips)

“They (SA Health) facilitated a transfer to the nursing home that same day, which was amazing,” she said.

“We basically had this private transfer, and it sounds ridiculous, but you almost felt like a celebrity in these big black Merc vans with a police escort.”

Ms McPhillips was able to spend an hour with her nanna before returning to the medi-hotel.

They had a third rapid COVID-19 test and after another negative result, the couple was allowed to return the following day for one last visit to say goodbye.

While Ms McPhillips was allowed to be in the room with her nanna, play cards with her, touch her and hug her, she was not allowed to be close to the rest of her family.

Ms McPhillips comforted by her partner after she said goodbye to her nanna for the last time.(Supplied: Marlaina McPhillips)

“My family couldn’t be in the room when we were there, which was pretty heartbreaking because I haven’t seen them in a while either, but they were on a window on the outside of the room and they could say hello to my nan, and spend some time with her which was really emotional,” she said.

SA Health prioritises compassionate exemptions 

In a statement, SA Health said compassionate exemptions may be granted for terminal, critical or end-of-life visits as well as attendance at funerals.

“To enable safe and timely visits medi-hotel staff including nursing, hotel, transport and SAPOL work collaboratively to coordinate the timings and logistical arrangements to enable these visits to occur.

“Individuals who leave quarantine for compassionate visits may be supervised by a nurse to ensure the person is supported during the visit whilst also maintaining strict safety measures such as the correct use of personal protective equipment.”

SA Health came under fire in July when it failed to grant an exemption to former Adelaide man Daniel Cioffi.

Mr Cioffi, who now lives in Spain, made a mercy dash to Adelaide to see his terminally ill mother, who had just been diagnosed with brain cancer.

He was eventually granted an exemption nine days after telling his story to the media.

Daniel Cioffi with his mother Emanuela.(Supplied: Daniel Cioffi)

Mr Cioffi yesterday told a parliamentary committee examining the state’s COVID-19 response that SA Health lacked compassion.

“SA Health were just assessing my mum’s vital signs … but she was disappearing from the moment I left Spain,” he said.

Mr Cioffi said he wanted SA Health’s exemptions system to change, including the way terminal illnesses were assessed.

“I’m not expecting an apology, I’m here to invoke change,” he said.

“Each and every day my mother was losing her personhood, which is typical for brain cancer.

“That’s a reason why terminal illnesses should not be assessed generically.

“I don’t want my Mum’s death to be in vain, or for other people to go through what we went through.”

Up to 8,000 South Australians have been left stranded interstate since borders were closed to people in Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT.

According to figures supplied by the state government, there have been more than 11,000 applications lodged through the SA portal since August 8.

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