Tue | Nov 24, 2020

Jaristotle's Jottings | Dead Wuk – Rogues, corruption, incompetence or don’t care?

Published:Thursday | August 8, 2019 | 12:00 AM

The Sunday Gleaner ( ‘Lab rats’, June 16, 2019) addressed the risks in using the services of medical laboratories which were not accredited to practise. The article went on to highlight that customers, being aware of the potential risks, were refusing to do business with such labs. Wish we could say the same for rogue funeral homes.

There has been an ongoing issue within the funeral home business, which has seen a major increase in the number of entities that are operating without having first acquired the relevant expertise, facilities or licences. These unregistered rogue entities have featured in numerous hiccups, ranging from deliveries of wrong bodies to funerals and even the erroneous cremation of a body.

Separate from the repetitive management shortfalls, there are the issues of substandard facilities and the risk to public health, especially given that some of these rogues are operating in violation of zoning laws and can often be found in residential areas.

Why the procrastination?

These are not new issues within the industry, and they are well known to officials within the Ministry of Health and Wellness. The question, therefore, must be asked: why have they not implemented the relevant measures to stem this prevalent and potentially risky practice?

Does it boil down to rampant corruption within the ministry – and not just at the lower levels – incompetence or simply an attitude of don’t-care?

According to reported statements from Calvin Lyn, president of the Jamaica Association of Certified Embalmers and Funeral Directors (JACEFD), “proper training and standard procedures would reduce errors”, and no doubt make for safer and improved quality of services across the industry.

Without these, the public faces a potential health risk; this alone should provide adequate impetus for ministry officials to bring appropriate regulations to the industry.

However, “regulations to govern the regularisation, registration and operation of funeral homes and mortuaries are yet to be concluded, despite numerous promises from government officials to make it a priority”.

So, why no regulations to date? Corruption, incompetence or don’t care? You be the judge.

For their part, the executive of JACEFD has been quite vocal about the issue, which, while falling on seemingly deaf ears within the ministry, has reportedly earned them death threats, suspected to have come from the “informal, untrained funeral operators who are accusing the association’s leadership of planning to keep them out of the mortuary business”. Careful, JACEFD; information suggests the rogues’ tentacles run wide and deep within the police, medical services and the ministry!

Action imperatives

For what it is worth, due note should be taken of the accreditation requirements for labs: they are required to be accredited with the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC) appurtenant to international standards required under World Trade Organization (WTO) technical agreements. The principle of accreditation as a means of protecting the public and international stakeholders is no different for labs as against funeral homes.

Given what is at stake, one would expect that the ministry’s website would give some indication of the registered and accredited funeral homes and mortuaries but, alas, no such listing. Why not? Corruption, incompetence or don’t-care? At any rate, this is something JACEFD should push for, while regularly publishing their list of members.

The potential health risks suggest that there should also be sanctions for persons who utilise the services of rogue funeral homes. Precedence for such sanctions already exists in local legislation, as in the private security industry regulations where persons can be prosecuted for using unlicensed individuals to provide security guard services.

Finally, the police High Command should initiate a clampdown, with or without directives from the health ministry, in keeping with their mandate to serve and, more so, to protect.

Let’s see.