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JIS News

The Registrar General Department’s (RGD) has announced that it will be working closely with funeral directors islandwide to improve the collection of data relating to deaths in Jamaica.
This collaboration will also support the efforts of funeral directors, as they seek to obtain death certificates on behalf of families who have lost loved ones.
Chief Executive Officer of the RGD, Dr. Patricia Holness told JIS News that the move would help to bridge the gap in the death registration process, as many persons are still unaware of what is involved in registering a death.
“Our highest level of customer complaints relates to death registration and the procedures for obtaining a certified copy of the death record,” she said.
According to Dr. Holness, the RGD has been working assiduously to improve death registration and customer satisfaction in these areas and as such, has embarked on a number of initiatives that would be implemented in collaboration with the funeral directors.
These initiatives, she said, were agreed on at the agency’s first seminar for funeral directors held in early December at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston, where some 67 funeral directors were present.
Among the initiatives is a system of identification for funeral directors. Identification cards issued by the RGD will allow them hassle-free access to the agency’s offices. This will support their new role, which will see them applying for death certificates on behalf of their clients.
“We have asked them to make applications for death certificates of all burials at the time of the funeral. Some funeral homes have already been offering this service as a package to family members who have lost their loved ones,”Dr. Holness informed.
The RGD will be making special arrangements to ensure that “certified copies are delivered promptly to funeral directors, who will now include the application for a death certificate as part of their burial arrangement packages”, she explained.
Also, as part of the agreement reached with funeral directors, Dr. Holness said that RGD’s service of issuing burial orders would be accessible to them at all times, that is 24 hours each day.
“For deaths which occurred on a Thursday, for example, a burial order may not be issued until the following Monday, because of the weekends when our offices are usually not accessible to them [funeral directors],” she pointed out, explaining that having 24/7 access would greatly assist funeral directors in their role.
“We will respond within 24 hours to their request, based on their need especially as it relates to having the body transported from the island for burial abroad,” the CEO noted.
With respect to burial orders, all those issued by the police, as well as those that are issued by the Local District Registrar will bear the RGD logo and will be pre-numbered.
“By late December, we will ensure that burial orders being issued for persons who have died violently or suddenly as well as for those [deaths] that are registered with our Local District Registrar will have the logo and will also be pre-numbered,” she stated.
The CEO explained that burial orders bear the RGD’s logo and are pre-numbered as marks of authenticity and to assist the agency in tracking their issue and use. It would reduce the “delays caused by the non-reporting of sudden and violent deaths (for RGD’s records), because at the time of the burial, the funeral directors will be able to provide the RGD with the information.
We will then work with the funeral directors and the family to conclude the registration. All this will improve the timeliness of the registration process for sudden and violent deaths,” Dr. Holness explained.
“On no occasion should photocopies be accepted by funeral directors or pastors who are performing burials,” she stressed.
Commenting on the new initiatives, Manager of Delapenha’s Funeral Home in Mandeville, Keith Delapenha said that, “for us as undertakers, the changes will make the process of registering deaths much easier and faster”.
The RGD is the only organization in Jamaica which is responsible for recording all vital events – births, deaths, marriages and stillbirths – occurring in Jamaica and Jamaican waters for the purposes of providing timely statistical data to support planning by Government.
In January, the agency will be hosting a Records Management Seminar for funeral directors as part of its continued effort to train them in the death registration process.