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Jitters among funeral homes over threat of Ebola

Published:Thursday | October 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Dr K'adamawe K'nife addresses the gathering during a 'Youth Leadership Breakfast' session held at the Rise Life Management Services offices in Kingston recently. Ian Allen/Photographer

WITH MORE than 100 unregulated funeral homes operating in Jamaica, there are jitters in the industry over how they will manage if an Ebola crisis hits the country.

"I don't know exactly how many funeral homes exist, but there are about 15 who belong to the director's association and these are the people, as far as I know, who have been trained and certified to deal with the deceased," said Dr Lundie Richards, the director of National Health Systems Planning and Integration, during Tuesday's handover of guidelines for the operation of funeral establishments and mortuaries by the Ministry of Health.

Travellers from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa have been banned from entering the country and now the ministry has issued guidelines for selected funeral homes to handle the dead bodies in c`ase the Ebola virus reaches the island and there are such fatalities.

There are about 125 known funeral establishments in the industry, and Richards believes that legislation to closely monitor them should be ready in the near future.

"It is anticipated that, in the very near future, the regulations will come from the chief parliamentary counsel to do whatever we need as it concerns monitoring these funeral homes," said Richards.

Richards shared that there would be no burial or funeral for deceased Ebola victims, as they will be cremated within three hours after death.

"There will be no last good-byes. The bodies will be prepared at the site of death and be cremated," he stressed.

andrew.harris@gleanerjm.com