The Ever-Ready Funeral home on Wednesday released to its main competitor, New Haven Funeral Home, the body of a man whose daughter said the body had been sent to Ever-Ready against her wishes and that of her deceased father.
The woman, Katrina James, told iWitness News on Monday that she cannot understand why the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH) had sent the body of the man, Edmond Kenneth Ballantyne, 64, of Lodge Village, to Ever-Ready Funeral Home after he died of kidney failure at the hospital on Aug. 8.
She said that she had repeatedly indicated to MCMH staff that the body was to be sent to New Haven Funeral Home, telling iWitness News that is the funeral parlour her family traditionally uses.
Ever-Ready said through it lawyers that hospital personnel called its staff on Aug. 8 to collect the body and they did so and proceeded to embalm it, in keeping with health and industry standards.
The hospital has maintained that it obeyed the woman’s instructions and that she had said that her father’s remains were to be sent to Ever-Ready.
The funeral home had demanded that James pay EC$3,000 for the services it had provided, saying that it would not have released the body until this was done, but the woman refused, saying that the body had been sent there in the first place against her wishes.
The situation led to the cancellation of Ballantyne’s funeral last Thursday and an appeal by James to several persons, including Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves to intervene.
James told iWitness News on Wednesday that the body was released to New Haven funeral home without charge after she had a conversation with the prime minister.
She had earlier written to Gonsalves outlining the situation but had missed a call from him, James told iWitness News.
The Prime Minister left a voice note saying that he had forwarded her letter to the relevant public officials.
However, James said that Gonsalves called again on Wednesday saying he had seen the story of her plight on iWitness News.
She said he told him he was “upset” about the situation, adding that he was going to call Ever-Ready Funeral Home.
James said that the prime minister called her back sometime after and told her to go and collect her father’s body.
She said she did not have to pay the funeral home before the body was released.
Speaking to iWitness News on Wednesday, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Luis de Shong said that he was happy that the situation was resolved.
Asked how the situation developed, de Shong told iWitness News:
“I can only tell you what my staff said to me and what my administrator gave me by way of the report. Following the death of the lady’s father, she said to them she wanted the body to be taken to Ever-Ready Funeral Home. And then they immediately sent the body off because there were about seven deaths at the hospital on the weekend, they couldn’t keep all the bodies there at the same time and they immediately sent it after her decision to send it to Ever-Ready, and then the next morning, she turned up and said that she was confused and that she meant New Haven. That’s my information via the phone from the administrator and also in writing from the administrator.”
The senior public servant said that there is documentation that the family of a person who dies at the hospital must sign to indicate which funeral home they could like the body to be sent to.
“…she told them that she wanted the body to be sent to Ever-Ready Funeral home. And, somewhere along the line, it would seem that there was a change in the documentation in respect to the identification of the funeral home,” de Shong said.
James said that Ballantyne will be buried on Tuesday.