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)

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

North Cowichan councillor Kate Marsh. (File photo)
North Cowichan postpones decision on cell tower placement

But cell tower policy may be developed soon

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks at a press conference Monday, April 18. (B.C. Government image)
New COVID-19 cases tick down on the central Island

New cases held to single digits three days in a row

CVRD offices on Ingram Street will remain closed for another 14 weeks after flooding last month. (File photo)
CVRD headquarters closed for another three and a half months

Building significantly damaged during water leak

Victoria police are asking for help locating high-risk missing man Derek Whittaker, last seen in Victoria April 12. (Courtesy of VicPD)
MISSING: Police searching for Derek Whittaker, last seen in Victoria

Whittaker believed to be driving 1994 red Volkswagen Golf

The IIO is investigating after a police dog bit a man during a traffic stop near Ladysmith on April 17, 2021. (Black Press Media stock photo)
IIO investigating after police dog bites man near Ladysmith

RCMP dog bit man during traffic stop on Friday, April 17

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

Lawsuit filed last summer accused Barney Williams of verbal abuse

Former B.C. premier Christy Clark. (Black Press Media files)
Former B.C. premier to testify at money laundering hearing today

Attorney General David Eby has been added to the witness list as well

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. to table budget that’s expected to deal with COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

Robinson released a fiscal update last December that said the impact of the pandemic on B.C.’s economy was uncertain

Paramedic Matthew Schlatter of Victoria is living a fuller life today due to the double lung transplant he received in 2019. He encourages B.C. residents to register as an organ donor and let their families know their wishes. (Instagram/Matthew Schlatter)
B.C. man living a full, active life after double-lung transplant

Matt Schlatter encourages people to register as an organ donor to help others live

(Photo by Mojpe/Pixabay)
Canadian kids extracting record amounts from Tooth Fairy

Our neighbours in the U.S. receive slightly less from Tooth Fairy visits

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

Most Read