District of Clearwater is going to write the provincial government to express its concern about BC Coroners Service’s decision to centralize its body removal service to Kamloops.
Town council voted to send the letter during its Dec. 3 meting.
Mayor John Harwood appeared skeptical that much could be done, unless the government is prepared to break the contract.
The term of the contract is for three years, he believed.
Up until last spring, if there was an unexpected or accidental death in the North Thompson Valley, chances are it would be handled by North Thompson Funeral Services.
Last May BC Coroners Service consolidated the body collection services in the Kamloops region into one contract. The contract was advertised on BC Bid but, because it involved collections from as far away as Ashcroft, North Thompson Funeral Services did not bid on it.
A company from Kelowna was the successful bidder.
Harwood said he had met with North Thompson Funeral Services owner Drake Smith and Clearwater RCMP Sgt. Kevin Podbisky about the issue about five months ago.
According to the mayor, the police are unhappy with the change because it can add to the time they must wait at an accident scene.
A similar time lag could apply to local residents whose family member has died at home, the mayor added. Waiting many hours with the body of a loved one in the house could only add to the stress felt.
The major impact to the funeral home would not so much be the direct loss of business as much as the indirect, Harwood felt.
All or most victims of unexpected or accidental deaths are now taken to Kamloops, rather than the hospital in Clearwater. With the body already in the city, people would be that much more likely to use a Kamloops funeral home for the service, rather than the one in the valley.
Centralizing the body removal service therefore has important social and community implications, he said.
A number of local residents have written letters to BC Coroners Service to express their opposition to the change.
The letter-writing campaign has been organized by Wells Gray Country Seniors Society.
Speaking from the audience WGCSS member Sandra Holmes said she has had local first responders and ambulance staff tell her they agree with the opposition to the body removal changes.
The centralized contract only extends to Clearwater, she noted, while the one covering Valemount only extends to Blue River (bodies from there are taken to Prince George). That means there is a “no man’s land” between the areas covered by the two contracts.
Holmes encouraged town council to write the letter. She said her understanding is the contract can be cancelled at short notice.