'Deathcare' industry lacks crematories for COVID-19 fatalities: official

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 26 2020 11:41 AM | Updated as of Mar 26 2020 02:04 PM

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MANILA - The funeral service industry on Thursday said it lacks cremation facilities for COVID-19 fatalities and those suspected of dying from the illness.

The Department of Health has ordered funeral homes to directly deliver a deceased COVID-19 patient or person under investigation to a crematory within 12 hours, according to Jojo Flores, president of the National Federation of Mortuary Stakeholders.

Some funeral homes in Metro Manila, however, do not have a crematory while most private crematories do not accept COVID-19 fatalities, Flores said.

"'Yun po ang isa sa problema ng deathcare industry namin. Meron po tayong funeral (homes) sa Metro Manila na wala pong crematory facilities so 'yun po ang gusto sana naming mai-address. Hindi po lahat ng local government may public crematory," he told radio DZMM.

"Ang gusto po sana namin mai-request din na 'yung mga crematory mabuksan, lalo na po 'yung mga private. Karamihan po kasi ng mga private crematory ngayon ayaw tumanggap ng COVID cases."

Flores also flagged the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the staff of funeral homes, with some improvising by using raincoats.

"'Yung mga nagpi-pickup po na funeral staff sila po ang medyo prone [to COVID-19 infection]. Sinasabi namin kailangan magsuot sila ng PPE. Wala na po kaming makuhanan. Nag-i-improvise na lang po kami ngayon kung ano ang sinusuot ng staff namin," he said.

Lack of crematory facilities has led families of deceased COVID-19 patients to wait longer for their loved ones to be picked up, Flores said.

"Binigay po sa'tin na directive dapat po hindi dadalhin sa kahit anong lugar ang COVID-positive so pag-pickup pa lang po dapat diretso (sa crematory). Kaya natatagalan dahil ina-arrange pa po natin yan saang crematory dadalhin," he said.

Families may opt for the direct cremation or direct burial of their loved one, while embalming is disallowed, according to Flores.

The industry also took a hit after wake services were limited in compliance with Luzon's lockdown, he added.

"Malaki po ang epekto samin n'yan kasi karamihan po ngayon dahil wala na pong lamay," Flores said.

"Yung iba po kinakailangan magbawas ng tao dahil 'yung service limitado na lang ngayon."

As of Wednesday afternoon, the virus has claimed the lives of 38 people out of some 636 patients in the Philippines.