The only way the one funeral home in Prince Rupert will move a body is to and from the morgue, to Terrace to the crematorium, or to the cemetery. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

This B.C. city has no service to transport the dead

BC Emergency Health Services will temporarily transfer bodies from the home to the hospital

There is one funeral home within 140 km of Prince Rupert, with one licensed funeral director in his 60s, who made the decision a year ago that he could no longer transport the deceased — there simply weren’t enough resources.

“We’re just a tiny, independent funeral home,” said Sheril Macrae, who is the only other full-time employee, along with Jim Ferguson, at Ferguson Funeral Home Ltd.

It takes the pair 80 hours to provide funeral services for one person. When Ferguson provided body transportation services he was on call all hours of the day. After 40 years, he couldn’t do it anymore and Macrae notified the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital of their decision.

“A year ago, we called the people who we thought would get the message across, but somehow the message didn’t get down the pipe,” Macrae said.

Then last Sunday, at 5 a.m., she received a call from someone requesting their body removal services after BC Ambulance Service paramedics said it was not within their duties to take a deceased man to the hospital. She had to turn them down.

“It’s upsetting to us that this miscommunication is happening,” she said.

This was the second incident since January.

READ MORE: B.C. paramedics to be trained in at-home care for seriously ill, end-of-life patients

In Prince Rupert there is no service to take people who die of natural causes in their home to the morgue.

After the two most recent incidents in the city, BC Emergency Health Services has stepped in to fill the void, calling the situation “exceptional.”

“We are currently fulfilling that role on an interim basis in Prince Rupert where it is our understanding there are no readily available transport services for the deceased,” said Shannon Miller, communications officer with BC Emergency Health Services.

“This is a temporary measure until Northern Health is able to establish with the Ministry of Health, BC Coroner and local funeral services a permanent option.”

READ MORE: For the end of life a community comes together

Typically, the only time a paramedic will move a body is when a patient dies inside the ambulance on the way to the hospital; when they’re under the direction of a police officer and a coroner to remove a body from a public place; or when there is no other readily available removal service.

For the time being, paramedics will transport the deceased in the city, but Miller stresses that 911 medical emergency calls will take priority.

Be prepared

With expected, planned home deaths, Northern Health and Ferguson Funeral Home want residents to have a plan in place so they’re prepared for body removal, and it’s not a total shock when the moment comes.

Before the ambulance service stepped up there was no other way to move a body from a home to the hospital morgue unless an authorized next of kin did it themselves.

In 2006, the province issued a protocol for planned home deaths to make sure the procedures were laid out clearly. Police or ambulance services shouldn’t be contacted with anticipated deaths at home, the local funeral home should be aware and authorization should be in place before the person dies.

Legally, funeral homes need this authorization to remove the body. Families shouldn’t wait longer than four to six hours to transfer the body to the morgue. Ferguson Funeral Home doesn’t have a morgue, so it utilizes the hospital’s.

The legal authorization form includes a line that the funeral home will be used for transport. But what happens when that service isn’t available?

“We are involved in discussions with community partners including BC Emergency Health Services, and funeral providers and the coroner is involved in the discussion… We’re looking to develop solutions on how to transport human remains when it’s an expected death. Yes, EHS is going to play this role as a temporary measure until a more clear permanent process can be worked out,” said Eryn Collins, communications manager for Northern Health.

The nearest funeral home, MacKay’s Funeral Service Ltd. in Terrace, offers after-hours body removal services from the hospital and they have provided the service to Prince Rupert.

Unnatural deaths

Another body removal service recently posted a job in Prince Rupert.

Starting April 1, CAML-Dah Danesdih Transportation Services is looking for two employees to do scene removal. This is an on-call position for all hours of the day, with a starting salary of $20-25 an hour. The Smithers-based company is taking over a contract for the area that includes Prince Rupert, Terrace, Hazelton, Burns Lake, all the way to the Yukon.

“You will be required to attend scenes which may be graphic in nature, i.e. traffic accidents,” the post reads.

Training and equipment will be provided, and everything dealt with on the job must be kept confidential.

“We do work with body removal companies to remove [the deceased] in a respectful and dignified way,” confirmed Andy Watson, spokesperson for the BC Coroners Service.

When asked if this service could be extended to natural deaths, Watson said the coroner has no jurisdiction in circumstances in a home death when it’s expected and natural.

For natural deaths, Macrae said it is very sad this is happening now. “Calm and peaceful, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

To report a typo, email: editor@thenorthernview.com.


Shannon Lough | Editor
Shannon Lough 
Send Shannon email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Royal Bay drama students help police train for emergency

Students helped train crisis negotiators by acting out scenarios

Westhills proposes picnic area, pier and beach by Langford Lake

The public amenity contribution is part of a proposed deal for a waterfront restaurant

Victoria BC Transit driver taken to hospital after assault

Driver attempted to stop an altercation between two people on the bus

How a scrawny kid from Oak Bay bulked into one of rugby sevens’ best

Doing it for Dylan, Oak Bay’s Connor Braid at the top of his game

CRD’s 2019 financial plan includes 23 per cent increase for capital projects

Housing, health care and wastewater projects included in 2019 plan

VIDEO: Restaurant robots are already in Canada

Robo Sushi in Toronto has waist-high robots that guide patrons to empty seats

POLL: When do you think the next major earthquake will hit Vancouver Island?

According to seismologists, Vancouver Island is overdue for a magnitude 7 earthquake.… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of March 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

View Royal council to discuss proposed 3.5% tax increase tonight

Budget open house to directly precede the council meeting

Permit rejected to bring two cheetahs to B.C.

Earl Pfeifer owns two cheetahs, one of which escaped in December 2015

Real-life tsunami threat in Port Alberni prompts evacuation updates

UBC study says some people didn’t recognize the emergency signal

Care providers call for B.C. seniors’ watchdog to step down

The association also asks the province to conduct an audit and review of the mandate of her office

Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from B.C. roaster recalled due to botulism scare

“If you purchased N7 Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from Cherry Hill … do not drink it.”

Short list for new gnome home includes Parksville, Coombs

Five potential locations have been chosen by Howard’s owners who will decide Tuesday

Most Read