Deyalsingh: Only next of kin can collect covid19 bodies from mortuaries

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh.

HEALTH Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and Social Development Minister Donna Cox answered questions in the Senate on Tuesday,about the funerals and collection of the bodies of people who die from covid19. The questions were asked by Opposition Senator Wade Mark.

After checking with the regional health authorities (RHAs) before coming to the Senate, Deyalsingh said, “The RHAs don’t charge persons for storing the bodies (at their mortuaries).”

The average storage time for bodies of the deceased at the South West and North Central RHAs is one-five days. He said there are no undue delays at the Eastern RHA or the North West RHA in the release of bodies from their mortuaries.

But Deyalsingh said there are cases when bodies have been stored in the RHA mortuaries beyond the one-five day period. Investigations have found that the next of kin listed on the hospital admission form in these cases are in 14-day quarantine due to either contracting covid19 or being suspected of having the virus.

“That has thrown up a problem. It is the fault of no one.”

Legally, Deyalsingh said only the next of kin listed on a hospital admission form can authorise the release of the body of a deceased relative from a hospital mortuary. No other family member can give this approval.

To address this problem, the ministry is liaising with local government corporations, the funeral home association and the RHAs.

“We do morning body checks at all the mortuaries. We call relatives as much as possible. We liaise with the (hospital) wards where the (deceased) persons come from so all proper documentation is in place.”

Deyalsingh said this allows the funeral homes to collect the bodies without any administrative delay.

Cox said no cap is placed on the number of grants provided by her ministry to vulnerable people.

“The funeral grant is paid by the ministry and provides financial support for the burial of persons where families have difficulty providing for the full cost.”

The ministry determines the provision of the funeral grant by a means test.

Mark asked Cox if she knew that families were allegedly “being called upon to pay exorbitant costs associated with burials.” He also said these costs range from $10,000-$30,000.

Senate President Christine Kangaloo disallowed this question.