“There is a need to regulate and fine-tune existing guidelines governing the funeral industry, funeral service and mortuary science industry,” said Minister of Health Hon Dr Fenton Ferguson as he endorsed the launch of an Associate Degree in Funeral Services and Mortuary Science at the Montego Bay Community College on Wednesday, July 22, 2015.
Dr Ferguson said, “One of the major concerns expressed even by those who are a part of the industry is the preponderance of untrained, unregistered and unregulated persons carrying out this type of business across the island.”
Commending the college and its Canadian partner, Humber College and the Funeral Directors Association of Jamaica on pioneering the historic programme in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, Minister Ferguson said, “I do not doubt that there is interest in the industry as our problem is that there are many players but I hope that those persons who are already operating and those who wish to join understand the value of getting the right education in the area to be able to advance themselves and the business so that they can truly stand out in a positive way.”
The health minister said he did not foresee placing the industry on proper regulatory footing having any impact on the level of business activity but that operators who earned their certification and operated based on guidelines stood to benefit from enjoying greater public confidence.
“There will always be a need for funeral and mortuary services. The truth is there is a unique advantage to this business. There will always be customers. This programme will therefore always be relevant. I hope that through this programme we can move closer toward achieving best practice in the sector,” he said.
Recalling recent threats of infectious diseases, Dr Ferguson said in one way or the other they had a connection with how those who become victims of the process were buried.
He said there were synergies to be developed with health beyond strict public health considerations.
“We must consider that there must be linkages between the mortuaries and the pathologists, in order to better trace the pathology of diseases and to develop treatment and cures. We in Jamaica are aware that our biggest health issue arises from the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) giving rise to a death rate of over 70 percent,” reminded Dr Ferguson.
He added thatfuneral services and mortuary sciences were service industries that provided indispensable offerings to the public and proposed that they must integrate with health, national security, justice, finance, environment, local government, and develop synergies that will foster an improved business climate and secured socio/ cultural environment for the people.
Principal of MBCC, Dr Angella Samuels Harris said the degree programme was conceptualized out of recognition of the needs of funeral service providers and for a regulatory framework governing the sector.
She outlined several areas of collaboration, among them, specialized funeral service programmes, facilitating the sharing of expertise and facilities, commitment to a standards-driven, competency-based approach to preparing and certifying individuals, and to the transfer of technology, systems and expertise.
Support for the programme was also pledged by President of the Funeral Directors Association, Melvin Honeyghan; Mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Glendon Harris and Dean of Humber College, Dr. Jason Powell.