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)

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

Kerri and Kevin Black are highlighted for their volunteer work with the Carr's Landing Community and Recreation Association. (Contributed)
Lake Country couple’s passion to make a difference

Spotlight on Carr’s Landing Community and Recreation Association volunteers

Pink Shirt Day’s anti-bullying messaging on Feb. 24 should be understood every day of the year. (Contributed)
COLUMN: Millennial’s guide to online trolls, bullies

Messages of Pink Shirt Day should be front of mind all year long, especially online

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears shoes designed in her honour, as she views her image at the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on July 3, 2020. (Darryl Dyck - The Canadian Press)
Celebrating Vernon women in leadership this International Women’s Day

Pandemic highlights women excelling in critical response roles

Mya Kondor, owner and trainer of Canines and Co. in Kelowna. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
VIDEO: Kelowna dog school offers puppy socialization classes amid COVID-19

Canines and Co. has adapted to the pandemic to provide training essential to puppies’ development

Providing seniors with tablets in order to stay connected is just one of the services offered by the Lake Country Health Planning Society. (Literacy Alliance of the Shuswap Society photo)
Support helps Lake Country society reduce COVID impacts on mental health

District grants funding to Health Planning Society

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
UPDATE: 70-year-old man killed in workplace accident at Baldy Mountain

The mountain closed on Saturday but has partially re-opened today (Sunday)

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

Chase RCMP held two men involved in drunken disturbances overnight in their detachment’s cells on Feb. 6. (File Photo)
Chase RCMP hold two men involved in drunken disturbances overnight

The two seperate incidents took place less than an hour apart.

Kamloops Fire Rescue battled a landfill fire which belched toxic smoke into the air on Feb. 27. (City of Kamloops Photo)
Fire at Kamloops landfill sends thick black smoke into the air

Firefighters made slow progress on the fire throughout the morning.

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Approximate location of the vehicle incident. (Google Maps)
Vehicle incident blocking Coquihalla traffic in both directions

Both directions of traffic stopped due to vehicle incident

(HelloKelowna - Twitter)
West Kelowna billboard bearing anti-vaccine messaging deemed misleading

Ad Standards investigated the billboard, noting a lack of evidence to support the messaging

Most Read