The Health Department says it will take legal action against funeral undertakers who contravene the law as undertakers embark on a three-day strike action.
This comes as a group affiliated to 17 associations and forums announced that it would go on strike starting on Monday to demand improved working conditions and higher remuneration.
The group is also demanding the out-sourcing of mortuary facilities and that the government change rules regarding certificates of competence.
However, the department has released a statement insisting that practitioners must be in possession of a valid certificate of competence.
National Director of Environmental Health Murdock Ramathuba says, “All funeral undertakers and mortuary premises used in connection with the preparation, storage and preservation of human remains must be in possession of a valid certificate of competence issued by the relevant local authority. Environmental Health Practitioners are and will continue to conduct inspections. Legal action will be taken against owners of premises found to be in contravention.”
Meanwhile, Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba says the undertakers’ strike is a huge public scare to the country which is dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Ramathuba says, “When the parlours take this particular decision they must also bear in mind that service they might say it will not endanger lives because a life has already been lost, but it is endangering the lives of us who are still existing. Because it is very critical to say we must meet the 72 hours to conduct that burial whether as a result of COVID-19. We have made those regulations because we know once it passes that 72 hours it becomes a health hazard to those who are existing and it becomes a risk.
The department has urged families to check for the legitimacy of the undertakers used for the overall management of the burial of their loved ones. Families are urged to ensure that the handling of their loved ones’ funerals are done with dignity and within the confinements of the law.
The health department has further urged people to report funeral parlours operating illegally.
“We further call upon members of the public to report any illegal operations to ensure the public can be protected from potential risks and the spread of communicable diseases as a result of poor management of human remains. We will not allow non-compliance to legislation in this sensitive area. The Department of Health is willing to continue with talks with the funeral parlour sector to come to an amicable solution,” the department said in a statement.
The department says people can contact Environmental Health Practitioners in their districts or metropolitan municipalities for assistance with the handling of human remains and regarding adherence to lockdown regulations.