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Funeral directors to get best-practices guidelines

Published:Friday | June 20, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Sheldon Williams, Staff Reporter

PERSONS WHO work with the dead will have to conform to a number of best practices outlined in a policy document being revised by the Ministry of Health, which is expected to regulate the modus operandi of undertakers following reports of malpractices and other breaches.

Suitcase undertakers, who are also referred to as 'fly by night', are also expected to be booted from the profession when health inspections become more frequent.

The guidelines are expected to address reports of cross contamination, lack of proper ventilation and poor recordkeeping, among other things, in funeral parlours.

William Broughton, director of environmental health at the Ministry of Health, told members at a recent meeting of the Funeral Directors' Association of Jamaica that the introduction of the guidelines is now awaiting the approval of the health minister.

"The chief medical officer has signed off on this document already, and it went through the policy section of the Ministry of Health. The next desk it has to go on is the minister," he revealed.

Marring business integrity

Funeral directors who complained that unlicenced and unprofessional persons were marring the integrity of the business were given some assurance by Broughton that those persons will be axed. "The guideline will tell you how to operate. The regulation now, that is going to be the public-health funeral establishment and mortuary regulation made under the Public Health Act, and will regulate who can work in the trade," he insisted.

Those practioners who now have laissez-faire attitudes while on the job were also warned to discontinue such behaviour and prepare to adapt to the guidelines. "Apart from passing infections from a live person to another live person, we are now concerned about the passing of infections from a dead body to a live person. Protective gear - we have to emphasise ... gloves, single service only, because you may be infecting yourself," he said.

Broughton added: "The one for the face is important because of the splashing ... I note that you provide these things for workers as tools of trade, and they don't wear it ... but in the new regulation from the Ministry of Labour, it protects the employer because if you provide it and they don't use it, and something happens to them, you won't be held liable. We see some people wear the mask under their chins and they sell the water boot and they wear the overall, out on the streets, tied around their waist," he shared.