Funeral homes worry about running out of needed PPE
TORONTO -- The novel coronavirus pandemic is affecting every corner of society, including funeral services.
While family members of loved ones who have died struggle with the new grieving process – large funerals replaced with small, grave-side services – the funeral industry is also struggling with a grim new reality.
“We’ve made the decision to treat all remains as though it’s possible that they would have COVID-19,” Scott Davidson of Hendren Funeral Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont. told CTV News. As the only funeral home in a small community, Davidson and his colleagues have responded to the majority of the 28 coronavirus-related deaths at Pinecrest Nursing Home.
Each time staff leave the home to pick up a body, they must now be outfitted in personal protective equipment (PPE), which Davidson says is in short supply. Body bag manufacturers are running out of fabric and zippers, and estimate a wait time of up to six months for new orders.
“We have to be able to access the PPE that we need,” Davidson said. “We have found it very challenging.”
Funeral homes in Ontario have been directed by the Ministry of Health to use a “leak-proof body bag” marked with “infectious risk – handle with care,” and told that a disinfectant must be applied to the outside of the body bag.
Funeral Services Association of Canada president Brett Watson says these changes in equipment requirements are straining the funeral services system.
“Some (homes) are on the verge of running out (of supplies), and others have a month or two of supplies,” Watson said.