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

Increasing cloudiness with a high of 12 C for today

Monday’s forecast is calling for increasing cloudiness throughout the day with showers… Continue reading

Young cyclist struck near Galloping Goose Trail

Minor injuries reported by police

New Coast Guard ship crashes into Ogden Point breakwater

‘It is fairly unprecedented that it would happen’

The shores will not rock in 2019

Atomique Productions announce Rock the Shores festival will not return in 2019, future is uncertain

Video shows logging operation on disputed Saturna Island land

Tsawout First Nation members opposed to logging on reserve land

Mueller finds no Trump collusion, leaves obstruction open

But while Mueller fully ruled out criminal collusion, he was more circumspect on presidential obstruction of justice

Trudeau delivers campaign-style speech while introducing candidate Taggart

The Order of British Columbia recipient said she wants to be the people’s voice in Ottawa

Stolen Bentley spotted going wrong way down highway found in Summerland

The car has been recorded going the wrong way on the Coquihalla, found two days later

15 Canadians on cruise ship that was stranded off Norway; one injured

The cruise ship was carrying 1,373 passengers and crew when it issued a mayday call on Saturday afternoon

Sparks fly as SUV speeds down wrong side of Highway 1 trying to flee RCMP

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

Bobrovsky perfect as Blue Jackets blank Canucks 5-0

Vancouver shut out for 10th time this season

Fundraising campaign launched for man caught in SilverStar avalanche

In only two days, the GoFundMe surpassed its $15,000 goal

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says future assembly deliberations won’t be closed to public

Reversal comes after Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff raised concerns

Most Read