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Saturday 17 August 2019

'They're not prepared to do it any longer' - funeral directors may refuse to attend fatal road accidents

Stock photo
Stock photo
Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

Undertakers are threatening to refuse to keep going to the scene of fatal road crashes as they claim they are being unfairly paid for their services, a representative body has said.

They said that due to the traumatic scenes they encounter that some undertakers may have "trouble sleeping" and are often left hundreds out of pocket after attending road crashes.

The rate paid to undertakers for going to the scene of fatal road crashes is set by each county council and Colm Kieran, Public Relations with Irish Association Funeral Directors, said their members are disgruntled.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast today, he said: "We host regional meetings and workshops across the country and one issue that arises in our open floor item each time is the payments made to undertakers for looking after those deceased in road accidents.

"It really exercises our members and it is something that has pushed them to the point of saying that they're not prepared to do it any longer."

He outlined what a typical job might be for a funeral director and the toll it can take.

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Mr Kieran said: "If I was to set the scene for a typical funeral director in a rural area, generally they look after another business.

"He's the one stop shop and he's the person who gets the phone call at two in the morning, he works on behalf of the coroner in these cases and provides the service of bringing the deceased for a postmortem.

"They will phone a colleague, who will travel with them to the scene of the accident, not knowing what they will see.

"With the work they do they probably find it hard and might have trouble sleeping at night.

"They travel to the scene and may have to wait there three to four hours as they assist the gardai and emergency services with removing the deceased, they then travel to the hospital and after leaving there they will probably then have to face a day's work."

He also outlined how the cost of one of these jobs can add up, saying: "If you have say two funeral directors on scene, they both have to be paid for their work.

"You have to have the hygienic (body) bag - which is generally €50 - and there's the mileage.

"If I phone a colleague to come out with me at 2am on Saturday night, I'm not going to turn around and offer him €50, you're paying for an out-of-hours service.

"So you are looking at the guts of €300 or €400 in total.

"In Cavan, for example, we get €150 from the council and that includes the  bag, so effectively we have €100 and when we are trying to get this back from the council you might be dealing with someone who works in an office who might only be available between 10 and 12 on a Tuesday morning."

Mr Kieran said that they are calling for a standard rate for this service to be implemented nationwide.

He said: "The Irish Association of Funeral Directors is trying to work with each individual county council to get a standard payment system introduced for funeral directors to provide this service going forward."

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