Ian Elliott of Arbutus Funeral Services in Langley is worried about running out of basic supplies like protective gloves. Across B.C., funeral homes are having trouble sourcing more PPE. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Funeral homes face PPE shortage as COVID crisis continues

From Langley across the country, funeral professionals need PPE to stay safe

Funeral homes in Langley and across the province are facing a potential shortage of personal protective equipment even as they have to transport and prepare for burial those who may have died of the coronavirus.

Ian Elliott of Langley’s Arbutus Funeral Services knows the difficulties of holding a funeral in a time of physical distancing.

His firm isn’t holding indoor funerals, with graveside services for a few people the only option for many right now.

But the work funeral homes provide behind the scenes is becoming increasingly difficult because of a worry about running out of PPE.

When someone dies in a hospital or care home, it’s funeral homes that undertake transport and get the bodies of the deceased to the funeral, the grave site, or a crematorium.

It’s unknown if there’s any danger of contracting COVID-19 from a deceased person, so there’s no way of knowing if it’s safe to handle them. And because PPE is almost entirely disposable, users go through it quickly.

“Hospital professionals are your first line of defence,” said Elliott. “Funeral professionals are your last line of defence.”

READ ALSO: Langley Mounties lose beards to PPE mask requirements

Workers are worried about possible exposure to COVID-19 in the course of their duties.

“My suppliers who I deal with, they supply all my masks and gloves, they are completely out of the N95 masks, any other masks, the face shields,” said Elliott.

Even simple items like hand sanitizer are either hard to find or have shot up in price, he said.

Funeral professionals were listed by the B.C. government among groups that need PPE to do their jobs – but Elliott said they were located on page four of the list, near the bottom.

It isn’t just a problem for Arbutus or other small, local firms.

“Our profession, right across Canada and the U.S. for that matter, PPE is hard to come by for sure,” said Jason Everden, president of the B.C. Funeral Association.

He said it’s big, international firms as well as the family-owned funeral homes facing the crunch.

The funeral supply firms that sold equipment, including PPE, to most chains and funeral homes, ran out of PPE early on in the crisis. Other PPE suppliers started limiting orders.

“And then, everyone was out,” he said.

“They’ve got less than three months supply, on average,” Everden said of funeral homes in B.C.

The association managed to get some PPE for its members by going through dental suppliers, who were sitting on some gloves and other items after dentists shut their doors.

What PPE is available is now often doubling in cost, with prices still volatile.

Everden acknowledges that doctors and nurses need the PPE first.

“But we also need it to protect our staff.”

British ColumbiaCoronavirusDeathfuneralLangley

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Drug alert issued in Grand Forks after fentanyl, ‘benzos’ detected in test

They are advising additional care and to have drugs tested before using

Missing toddler wandered for three hours in Beaverdell area before being found

The two-year-old boy was found safe by his uncle on Beaver Creek Road on Aug. 12

Missing toddler found safe near Beaverdell

The child had been missing in the Clark Lake area for more than two hours

Deer attack brings light back to controversial issue

The June 15 attack left Pinaar the service dog with multiple injuries

Injured animal highlights need to local woman for rehabilitation services

Christina Abbott ended up having the baby skunk put down due to the lack a nearby facility

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

Conservation seizes fawn illegally kept captive in Vancouver Island home

A Comox Valley resident charged and fined under the Wildlife Act

Pandemic could be driving more parents to get on board with flu shot: study

University of B.C. study gauges willingness for parents to vaccinate children for influenza

Watchdog clears Okanagan RCMP in death of man after arrest over alleged stolen pizzas

The man died in hospital after having difficulty breathing and broken ribs

Have you seen Berleen? B.C. pig destined for sanctuary goes missing

Berleen was less than two weeks from travelling to Manitoba when she vanished

Health Canada says several kids hospitalized after eating edible pot products

People warned not to store cannabis products where children can find them

‘It’s not just about me’: McKenna cites need to protect politicians from threats

Police investigation was launched after someone yelled obscenities at a member of McKenna’s staff

Michigan plans dedicated road lanes for autonomous vehicles

First study of its kind in the U.S. to figure out whether existing lanes or shoulders could be used

Most Read