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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Happy hour, dance party fundraiser for Central Okanagan Food Bank

Local musicians perform a virtual concert on June 5

Central Okanagan school buses to remain parked through the summer

The board of education made the decision to nix bus services on Wednesday

Booze on Kelowna beaches? Mayor says ‘not at the moment’

Mayor Colin Basran says alcohol in public spaces is not on council’s radar right now — but that could change

Motor trike crashes into hole in Ellison area

A man was taken to hospital after crashing his trike on Anderson Road

Mission prison COVID-19 outbreak ends, 9 new cases in B.C.

New positive test at Port Coquitlam care home

Flood watch for Salmon River upgraded as high temperatures, rain forecast

Shuswap Emergency Program warns residents to prepare now for possible extreme flooding

Man who bound, murdered Vancouver Island teen still a risk to public: parole board

Kimberly Proctor’s killer is still ‘mismanaging emotions,’ has had ‘temper tantrums’

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on quite a show

The ‘playful’ pod lingered by a Campbell River tour operator’s boat for quite some time

RCMP request public’s help in locating missing Salmon Arm man

Ken Derkach is a familiar face to many, one of the city’s residents who is without a home

Getting hitched at historic B.C. gold rush town still on table during COVID-19 pandemic

Micro-weddings, online visits, offered at Barkerville Historic Town and Park

VIDEO: Police look for suspect seen tripping elderly woman in Burnaby

The elderly woman was walking near the SkyTrain station when she was randomly tripped

Drunk man on a dirt bike and prohibited drivers without insurance keep Shuswap RCMP busy

Other calls resulted in excessive speed tickets and the arrests of two prohibited drivers

Summerland amends procedure for virtual council meetings, adding transparency

During COVID-19 pandemic, meetings have been held using online technology

Most Read