The government has signalled its intention to take steps to try to properly regulate the operations of funeral service providers here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
This was disclosed by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.
Speaking today on WEFM’s morning programme, Prime Minister Gonsalves said following a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, he has received permission to instruct the Attorney General to look at the question of the regulation of funeral homes.
He said the Attorney General will look at models in the Caribbean region and elsewhere where there are regulations regarding the operation of funeral homes.
The Prime Minister said this action is being taken in light of him having received quite a number of complaints about funeral homes here, in recent times.
Dr. Gonsalves said the competition between some funeral homes is very intense, so much so, that if the body of a deceased person inadvertently ended up at a funeral home, but the family wants to use another funeral home, the funeral home which got the body first refuses to release it until the family pays a fee for any services done.
The Prime Minister said the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital once had such a policy, whereby dead bodies were detained until the hospital fees were paid by relatives of the deceased, but he has had to repeatedly speak to hospital authorities on this matter, since this is not the policy of the government.
Dr. Gonsalves also spoke out about what he described as “a terrible practice” where different funeral homes have different agents at the hospital among staff members to alert them when somebody dies or is about to die, for them to move in.
“This is entirely a matter of disrespect. We know where the funeral homes are, people can perfectly make their arrangements without being harassed and patrolled and even bullied into going with one or the other of the funeral homes and we have to take legal action in relation to that. We have to legislate on that,” said the Prime Minister.
“And then the cost of the caskets have gone through the roof,” Dr. Gonsalves noted, adding that the substances used at funeral homes, such as embalming fluids, needs to be tightly controlled.