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Gov’t urged to set timeline for burial of COVID victims

Published:Friday | August 27, 2021 | 12:10 AMHopeton Bucknor/Gleaner Writer
Melvin Honeyghan, director of Honeyghan Funeral Home and Memorial Gardens in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland.
Melvin Honeyghan, director of Honeyghan Funeral Home and Memorial Gardens in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland.

WESTERN BUREAU:

With bodies piling up as a result of the increasing number of COVID-19-related deaths in the parish, funeral directors in Westmoreland want the Government to set defined timelines for burials to alleviate storage problems.

Melvin Honeyghan, director of Honeyghan Funeral Home and Memorial Gardens in Savanna-la-Mar, says funeral homes are seeing a drastic increase in the number of bodies as a result of the growing number of COVID-19-related deaths. With some relatives not opting for speedy burials, the situation is causing a serious storage issue.

“We are now faced with a serious crisis, and the Government needs to step in and give a set time period as to how long the body of a COVID-19 victim can be kept before burial,” said Honeyghan. “I have bodies of persons who have died from COVID-19 since July, and their loved ones have set burial dates for way at the end of December.”

Honeyghan, who is also president of the Funeral Directors Association of Jamaica, said the situation at his funeral home is so challenging that he now has to be seeking out other ways to store some of the bodies in his care.

“I can relate to persons who has lost close family members and would like to see them buried properly, but these persons need to realise that we are faced with a pandemic, and when a love one dies from COVID-19, we are left with the technical role of keeping those bodies,” said Honeyghan.

“And to make matters worse, it is already costing a lot to store these bodies away from the regular dead, and even more crucial, knowing that we have to be making space for them for three- and four-month periods. ... I now have over 50 COVID-19 bodies in my morgue, and that is a lot,” he added.

Tanisha Lincoln, a clerk at Doyle’s Funeral Home, which is also located in Savanna-la-Mar, said the situation was a bit different there.

“We have seen an increase in COVID-19 bodies, but I won’t go as far as to say we are having a pile-up of bodies because the structure of our funeral arrangement allows us to do several funerals per day,” said Lincoln.

Other funeral directors who spoke to The Gleaner also noted an increase in bodies, especially from COVID-19-related deaths and said that they, too, were facing storage challenges, hence their support of the plea Honeyghan has made to the Government.

Since the start of the month, Westmoreland has been the epicentre of COVID-19-related deaths, recently recording 39 deaths in eight dates. The parish recorded 39 positive cases and one death on Wednesday, the health ministry’s latest figures show.

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