New state death certificate database holding up burials

New state death certificate database holding up burials

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson News Now is uncovering new details about a backlog of bodies across Arizona.
Earlier this month, we were the first to tell you about an issue in a state system that delayed burials and cremations.
The problem is becoming increasingly troubling for some of the smaller funeral homes in Tucson that are running out of refrigeration space. Bring's Funeral home is currently at capacity, and they worry this has the potential to become a public health crisis. 
"Six days of him being not buried…no, that's not okay, that's unacceptable," Susan Sullivan said. 
Susan Sullivan's father, William Boyd, was a Vietnam Veteran who just lost his battle with ALS. All she wanted for the man who fought for our country was a proper burial, but because of complications with the state's new death certificate database that didn't happen. His body had to be brought back to the morgue after the funeral.
"We were only able to visit with family for a very short time because he had to be put back in the hearse and brought back all the way to Brings – so again it made it difficult as a family," Sullivan said.
It's now been two weeks since the Arizona Department of Health Services debuted a paperless system for doctor's to sign-off on the cause of death, allowing a family to move forward with a funeral.

But Bring's funeral home said a majority of doctors were left in the dark about the new database, which caused a major backlog.  
"Most doctors didn't even know about the system nor had they registered with vital records or were they in any way prepared to help funeral homes do this," Bring's Funeral Director, Joseph Stone, said. "At any given point there were more than a dozen families waiting for burial or cremation arrangements."

Stone said no one was prepared for the system. He's been left explaining the complications to families.
"I say the word criminal, more out of frustration – because at the end of the day, all the policies and procedures in the world don't make it any easier for me to call a family and say I know it's been two weeks since your son died, but I can't legally proceed with cremation," Stone said.
For Sullivan, her father was finally laid to rest - but now she wants accountability from the state.
"We don't want this happening to any other families again – it is not a thing that any person should have to go through when they're already grieving and then having to deal with this on top of that is just not okay."
Tucson News Now reached out to the state on Tuesday, but they wouldn't answer specific questions.
"We're just working on resolving any issues that do arise and we have staff working all day on it," Nicole Capone, Public Information Officer for the Arizona Department of Health Services said.

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