Coronavirus: Ontario coroner’s office implements changes amid COVID-19 pandemic

Ontario’s chief coroner says they have had to implement major changes as to how his office, funeral homes and hospitals handle the deceased throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking with Global News Radio 640 Toronto, Dr. Dirk Huyer said changes were made in the interest of the health and safety of everyone involved.

The changes came into effect last week and include all deaths in Ontario, not just those who have passed away due to COVID-19.

One of those changes is that families of loved ones who have passed away will only have an hour to decide which funeral home to use if the death occurred at a hospital, or three hours if it happened in a long-term care or retirement home.

“It’s an incredibly challenging thing,” said Huyer. “…That’s really to ensure the decisions are make quickly, the funeral services can respond in a priority way. But that’s tough.

“That allows us to use our skill set of completing medical certificates of death and understanding death to free up healthcare providers and those at long-term care homes from the task of doing that and having to travel and prepare the paper-based document,” he said, adding the idea of making this a permanent change post-coronavirus has been discussed.

Autopsies will also no longer be performed on those deaths connected with COVID-19, except in cases where one would be necessary, such as a homicide.

Huyer said that while there is no evidence to suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted after death, they still don’t know for sure.

The new changes implemented were a collaboration between the coroner’s office and the bereavement authority of Ontario.

As of Tuesday morning, Ontario reported 11,735 cases of coronavrirus and 622 deaths.

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