MMDA: Refrigerated vans can be used as morgues if coronavirus deaths spike
MANILA, Philippines – Refrigerated vans can be used as temporary morgues in case the number of coronavirus deaths in the country spikes, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said on Friday, April 17.
MMDA Spokesperson Celine Pialago said at the Laging Handa briefing on Friday that this measure was discussed during a meeting attended by representatives of funeral parlors and crematoriums, the MMDA, local government units, the Department of Health (DOH), and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Thursday, April 16.
"Just in case mag-increase ang bilang ng COVID-19 fatalities, freezer vans can be used in case ang mga morgue po natin ay mapuno. Installation of reefers sa identified ideal locations ay kasama po sa napag-usapan kahapon," Pialago said.
(Just in case the COVID-19 fatalities increase, freezer vans can be used in case our morgues are full. The installation of reefers in identified ideal locations was among the topics discussed yesterday.)
Pialago said "9 major issues" were discussed during the meeting. "So far, lahat ng napag-usapan, good to go na po 'yon (So far, everything that was discussed are good to go)," she said. (READ: How funeral homes cope amid coronavirus outbreak)
Peace Process Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr, the chief implementer of National Task Force (NTF) COVID-19, had earlier designated the MMDA as the coordinating agency in the proper disposal of the remains of coronavirus fatalities.
'Cremate now, pay later'
Pialago said that during the Thursday meeting, representatives of funeral service companies and crematoriums agreed with the "cremate now, pay later" plan for coronavirus deaths.
This will be subject to a memorandum of agreement among the funeral parlors and crematoriums, local governments, and concerned agencies.
She also said that during the meeting, crematoriums agreed to impose a fixed cremation rate of P25,000 for coronavirus deaths.
Pialago said that families of the deceased can seek assistance from their local governments, or a seek cash aid worth P25,000 from local Department of Social Welfare and Development offices.
So far, Valenzuela City, Quezon City, and Pasig City have shouldered the cremation expenses of their residents who died of COVID-19.
The MMDA spokesperson also said there will now be a "borderless accommodation" of coronavirus remains in crematoriums in the National Capital Region.
"All public and private crematoriums should accept all cadavers of COVID-19-related deaths, irrespective of residence. NCR must act as one region," Pialago said.
She also said that some funeral parlor representatives suggested that "public cemeteries be opened for burial," but the national government has already directed hospitals to cremate bodies of patients within the prescribed 12 hours.
Fast-track death certificates
On the slow release of death certificates from hospitals, which was raised during the meeting, Pialago said that the DOH will "instruct the hospitals to fast-track" the processing of death certificates.
Pialago said the DOH-NCR will check if a provisional death certificate – a simple certification from an authorized hospital representative – can be allowed while waiting for the official death certificate.
On the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and cadaver bags, Pialago said it was agreed that "all public and private hospitals must be recipients of donated cadaver bags and PPEs."
She said there are 7,000 available cadaver bags suitable for COVID-19 fatalities, and that the concerned hospital only needs to make a formal request for the supplies.
Other points agreed upon during the meeting are the following:
- Issue travel passes for employees of funeral and crematory services and their suppliers
- Ensure adequate supply of disinfectants for funeral and crematory services
- Ensure proper external tagging of cadavers so that the cadaver bags need not be reopened
As of Thursday, there are 5,660 coronavirus cases in the Philippines, with 362 deaths and 435 recoveries.
The Philippines has begun "massive" coronavirus testing on April 14, and aims to run 20,000 tests per day by April 27. – Rappler.com