Handling coronavirus victims scares funeral home staff
MANILA, Philippines — For the first time since he started working at a funeral home in Pasay City 10 years ago, Jason Nalda is afraid whenever it is his turn to pick up a body from a hospital.
“It’s really scary. Many have died from the virus already. With every cadaver we get, we think about our families, if we can go home to them safely. I’ve already thought of backing out several times whenever we find out our next client died of COVID-19 (new coronavirus disease). But if we do not do this, who will?” Nalda told the Inquirer.
“Before, we only use one pair of gloves …. Now, we use three; we’re very cautious now. We assume all cadavers died of coronavirus just to be safe,” he said.
He and his coworkers have also taken to wearing a raincoat under their personal protective equipment (PPE) provided by hospitals to ensure they won’t get infected.
Renz Vera, Rizal Funeral Homes Inc. director, said that this was just one of the precautions they were taking to ensure their personnel’s safety.
“Our staff wear thick raincoats and then put a PPE on top of it to be very sure. If the hospitals can no longer provide PPEs, we look for our own,” he added.
Vera said they thought of not accepting the remains of COVID-19 fatalities due to the lack of protective gear and facilities, but an order from Malacañang prohibited all funeral service providers from turning away those who died of the virus.
As of Sunday, the funeral home had handled the bodies of 20 persons—either confirmed cases or suspected to have died of COVID-19.
“Whenever we get the body from the hospital, our workers wear protective masks, suits, rubber gloves, and boots. Only three people get the bodies from the hospitals and we do not allow the driver and the other employees to sit together,” Vera said.
The bodies are sealed in not just one but five cadaver bags. These are not embalmed but are taken within 12 hours to a crematorium of the kin’s choice. Usually, the bodies are brought to the Pasay crematorium which charges a cheaper rate of P12,000 compared to private crematoriums.
Afterward, the vehicle used to transport the body is disinfected both inside and out. The PPE and other protective gear used by Vera’s staff are then burned.
As an incentive, the funeral workers get vitamins and a P250 bonus for every COVID-19 body they handle.
Nalda, who has stopped going home to his family to protect them, said the incentive was fine but expressed hope they would be given a higher hazard pay and more PPEs from the health department.
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