Mon | Jul 16, 2018

Gov't will bear some funeral home costs

Published:Monday | April 25, 2016 | 12:00 AM


Kindly allow me space in your newspaper to comment on an article published on page A3 on Saturday, April 23, 2016 captioned: 'Security minister tells funeral homes to stop double-billing'.

The Government has a contracted responsibility to pay the Government-contracted funeral home morgue contractors for storage of bodies after 48 hours.

However, where the storage extends beyond 48 hours into a weekend - after business hours on a Friday afternoon through to Sunday - or a public holiday and the body (ies) cannot be released until the next regular working day, the additional charge for storage is to be borne by the Ministry of National Security and not by the family (ies). This was published in a letter to the president of the Funeral Directors Association of Jamaica and copied to me dated April 20, 2016. This is the first time that the ministry has officially indicated that the cost would be borne by them since I have been contracted to them.

When the ministry of National Security introduced the 48-hour rule, they did not inform the funeral home morgue contractors that the weekend and holiday charges would be borne by them, so the contracted funeral homes charge the bereaved families for weekend and holiday storage at the commercial rate.

No removal charge was levied and this is a contracted item, and the body can only be removed once.

The following system was in place prior to the introduction of the 48-hour rule. The contractor would be called to remove a body from the place of death and would be required to store that body until the bereaved family (ies) was/were in receipt of a medical certificate of the cause of death issued by the doctor who last attended to the deceased, which they would take to the police, who would issue a release letter to the bereaved family (ies) to take to the contracted funeral home in order to remove the body to the funeral home of choice, if the contracted funeral home was not the family (ies) funeral home of choice.

Will the Ministry of National Security be willing to abandon the 48-hour rule and go back to what prevailed in April 2012, where they bore responsibility until a medical certificate of the cause of death was issue by the doctor?




Formerly, where death occurred at home and the police are called and a medical doctor who attended to the deceased is present, the police would superficially examine the body for signs of violence or foul play. If no signs were seen, the doctor on the scene would pronounce death and the police would cease to have an interest in this case.

However, the present situation is that the body should be taken to a public hospital facility by the contracted funeral home for death to be pronounced, and the body is then taken to the contracted funeral home for storage until a medical certificate of the cause of death is issued by the attending physician. This is so, I believe, because the death would still be under the police investigation.

At House of Tranquillity Funeral Home Limited, we levy a service charge to take care of incidentals and disposal of medical waste which has to be collected by a private sanitation contractor (carting company). This is public health and a National Solid Waste Management Authority requirement. This is so because on a visit by any of the two agencies, the contracted funeral homes would be required to show their receipt as to how medical waste is disposed of.

We are also required to do the same thing after post-mortem has been concluded. It should be noted that the Ministry of National Security (JCF) has no further responsibility for storage and removal of bodies from a designated morgue after the post-mortem has been concluded and burial order issued. The bereaved family (ies) must bear any cost incurred if they fail to take the body after the post-mortem, as the body cannot be abandoned at any time by the contracted funeral home. Families abandoning bodies occurs from time to time.

Truth be told, there are still teething pains as it relates to the Government of Jamaica funeral home morgue contract and the Ministry of National Security must meet with the contractors to work out a way forward or else this situation will continue unabated. We cannot sit by and allow things to get out of hand and pretend not to know what is happening.

Joseph M. Cornwall (Snr) JP

Chairman, Government Funeral Home Morgue Contractors Group