Submission to the Consultation Draft of the Public Health Bill 2010

CPSA's submission to the Consultation Draft of the Public Health Bill 2010.

Download: Submission to the Consultation Draft of the Publich Health Bill 2010 [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 70.79 KB]Q

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  1. Recommendations
  2. Part 2 – Facilities: Regulation 5 – Premises for handling of bodies, clause (1)
  3. Part 2 – Facilities: Regulation 5 – Premises for handling of bodies, clause (5)
  4. Part 2 – Facilities: Regulation 8 – Vehicles
  5. Part 3 – Handling of Bodies: Regulation 19 – Bodies to be placed in coffins
  6. Part 5 – Crematories: Regulation 29 – Cleanliness
  7. Part 6 – Cremation: Regulation 31 – No refusal to cremate
  8. Mandatory Reporting

Recommendations

  1.  In instances where people intend to place the body of the deceased in a coffin or shroud for burial or cremation without preparation, and a hospital does not have an approved mortuary but has only a holding room, the Public Health (Disposal of Bodies) Regulation must allow for the body of the deceased to be placed in a coffin or shroud in a holding room.
  2. a) Regulation 5, clause (5) should be removed from the Public Health (Disposal of Bodies) Regulation 2002 as no potential health risks could arise from its removal. This clause has greater impact on funeral providers’ business practices and helps increase costs for the public. b) Should Regulation 5, clause (5) be maintained in the Public Health (Disposal of Bodies) Regulation 2002, or moved to regulations under another overseeing agency, the clause should be kept in its entirety.
  3. Regulation 8 should only consist of clauses which prevent the spread of disease and infection through the use of a vehicle for the purposes of transporting a body.
  4. Regulation 19 should be either removed or amended to allow for uncoffined burials, with appropriate regulations being established to sure that all appropriate that uphold appropriate health safeguards.
  5. Regulation 29 should be maintained to ensure that appropriate health and safety procedures are in place in crematories.
  6. Regulation 31 should be maintained to ensure against discriminatory practices by funeral providers.
  7. To ensure that the funeral industry is operating within the law and by the appropriate regulations, all funeral directors, cemetery and crematoria operators and employees be obliged to report to the appropriate government body breaches of the law within the industry, and to report to the NSW Ombudsman if the respective department does not appropriately carry out their regulatory obligations.

Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association of NSW Inc (CPSA) was founded in 1931 in response to pension cuts. CPSA is a non-profit, non-party-political membership association serving the interests of pensioners of all ages, superannuants and low-income retirees.

CPSA has 142 Branches and affiliated organisations with a combined membership of over 32,000 throughout NSW. CPSA serves the interests of its membership and broader constituency at the local, state and federal levels.

This submission relates to the review of the Public Health (Disposal of Bodies) Regulation 2002. CPSA supports the proposal to narrow regulatory powers to matters which concern public health in the Public Health Bill 2010. Accordingly, those parts of the regulation that pertain to consumer issues or workplace safety will be better handled by the respective Government bodies. This should serve to enhance both health protection measures and affordable access to funeral services by the community.

This submission also focuses on several recommendations made by a number of funeral industry bodies in a joint submission. The bodies are the Funeral & Allied Industries Union, Australian Funeral Directors Association NSW Division, Funeral Directors Association of NSW, Funeral Industry Association Australia and Cemeteries and Crematoria Association of NSW. The recommendations concern Regulations 5, 29 and 31.

The final recommendation in this submission calls for a new regulation to be enacted in order to promote and protect public health through disposal of body practices. NSW Health should enact a mandatory reporting procedure to ensure any health regulation breaches reach the appropriate authorities and are acted upon.

Part 2 – Facilities: Regulation 5 – Premises for handling of bodies, clause (1)

People should have the right to ‘bury their own’ if they so wish provided that health and other legal constraints are adhered to. The Public Health (Disposal of Bodies) Regulation should be designed in such a way that does not unnecessarily hinder people other than funeral directors from conducting parts of a funeral.

Regulation 5, clause (1) states

A person must not, without the approval of the Director-General, use any premises other than a mortuary approved under the Local Government Act 1993 for the embalming, or other preparation, of bodies for burial or cremation or for the placing of bodies in coffins for burial or cremation. (Emphasis added.)

CPSA believes this clause discriminates against people wishing to conduct ‘do-it-yourself’ funerals in circumstances where the body is being held in a hospital that does not have an approved mortuary. As the clause currently stands, people in this situation would have to employ the services of a mortuary owner (usually a funeral provider) in order to have the body removed from the hospital holding room, transported to the mortuary and then placed in the coffin or shroud. The clause should be amended to allow people who intend to bury or cremate a body without preparation to do so in the hospital holding room should the hospital not have an approved mortuary.

Recommendation 1

In instances where people intend to place the body of the deceased in a coffin or shroud for burial or cremation without preparation, and a hospital does not have an approved mortuary but has only a holding room, the Public Health (Disposal of Bodies) Regulation must allow for the body of the deceased to be placed in a coffin or shroud in a holding room

Part 2 – Facilities: Regulation 5 – Premises for handling of bodies, clause (5)

Health regulations should also ensure that their adherence does not come at an unnecessary cost to small operators. Any regulation that places such costs on small providers will lead to such operators being forced out of business and will discourage new businesses from entering the industry. As such, this will reduce competition and will therefore increase the already significant cost of funerals.

Regulation 5, clause (5) states

A person must not, without the approval of the Director-General, use the facilities of a hospital for the purpose of the business of a funeral director or of the operator of a mortuary transport service except for the removal of bodies of persons who died in the hospital.

CPSA believes that this clause should be removed from the regulations as there are no potential health risks that could arise from having funeral providers using a hospital mortuary for business purposes. Many small providers do not to have their own mortuary but share one with other providers. If a provider was to reach an agreement with the appropriate authorities to use a local hospital mortuary, this could result in cost reductions for small providers and new entrants and thus lead to increased affordability for the public.

CPSA understands that the joint funeral industry submission has called for an amendment to this clause to remove the excerpt stating “except for the removal of bodies of persons who died in the hospital”. CPSA can see no reason for this proposal and therefore CPSA believes that, should this clause be kept in the regulations or moved to the regulations under another overseeing agency, this excerpt should be maintained.   

Recommendation 2

a) Regulation 5, clause (5) should be removed from the Public Health (Disposal of Bodies) Regulation 2002 as no potential health risks could arise from its removal. This clause has greater impact on funeral providers’ business practices and helps increase costs for the public.

b) Should Regulation 5, clause (5) be maintained in the Public Health (Disposal of Bodies) Regulation 2002, or moved to regulations under another overseeing agency, the clause should be kept in its entirety

Part 2 – Facilities: Regulation 8 – Vehicles

Health regulations should not stipulate what types of vehicles may or may not be used. Rather, they should stipulate only any procedures that should be followed to prevent the spread of disease and infection. This includes the purpose of use of (a part of) a vehicle, hygiene maintenance of a vehicle and the time a body is able to be kept in a vehicle. CPSA understands that vehicles typically considered as hearses are considerably expensive. By not specifying what type of vehicle a hearse should be, health regulations provide greater flexibility without increasing risk to public health and have the potential to reduce costs to small providers and the public.

Recommendation 3

Regulation 8 should only consist of clauses that prevent the spread of disease and infection through the use of a vehicle for the purposes of transporting a body

Part 3 – Handling of Bodies: Regulation 19 – Bodies to be placed in coffins

Regulation 19 states that unless there has been approval by the Director-General, a person must not bury or cremate a body unless the body has been placed in a coffin and the coffin has been securely sealed. CPSA believes that this regulation helps increase the cost of funerals to individuals and families who may otherwise wish to choose burial in a shroud or other such method. Currently, such burials can only take place if an exemption is provided by the Director-General or NSW Health’s Public Health Unit. Such exemptions are provided as either ‘general exemptions’, as in the case of particular religious customs, or in a ‘particular case’.

Three years ago, Lismore City Council established an eco-centric cemetery, the BushLand Cemetery. It is located in the bushlands of Lismore Memorial Gardens. The Council applied to NSW Health for an outright exclusion from requiring a coffined burial within the grounds of the BushLand Cemetery, however this was not provided. NSW Health Public Health Unit stated that:

The exemption application (in a particular case) will have to be approved by the Department (Public Health Unit). This is unlikely to be granted unless the applicant can show the deceased has the appropriate religious/cultural beliefs and such beliefs are widely held by “like minded” individuals or the deceased is a member of a recognised group holding such beliefs.

Such a position discriminates against those who wish to use a shroud as a low-cost alternative to coffins and caskets, or as an alternative to coffins and caskets on social, ethical and/or environmental reasons, which may or may not be widely held beliefs by “like minded” individuals. The determination compels people to choose a coffin to save time spent attempting to obtain an exemption, especially at what may be an emotionally difficult time. CPSA is unaware of any proven health risks associated with uncoffined burials. Therefore, restricting uncoffined burials to instances where a “general exemption” is granted is both discriminatory and unnecessary, and inevitably contributes to the high cost of funerals.

Recommendation 4

Regulation 19 should be either removed or amended to allow for uncoffined burials, with appropriate regulations being established to ensure that all appropriate health safeguards are in place for whatever mode of burial

Part 5 – Crematories: Regulation 29 – Cleanliness

CPSA understands that the joint funeral industry submission has called for Regulation 29 to be deleted. CPSA believes that this regulation should be maintained as its enactment does not seriously impinge on the practices of funeral providers. More importantly, CPSA is deeply concerned that deleting this regulation could lead to lapses in health and safety.

Recommendation 5

Regulation 29 should be maintained to ensure that appropriate health and safety procedures are in place in crematories

Part 6 – Cremation: Regulation 31 – No refusal to cremate

CPSA understands that the joint funeral industry submission also called for Regulation 31 to be deleted. As with Regulation 29, CPSA does not see how this regulation impinges on the practices of funeral providers. Serious consequences may arise if this regulation is deleted. Providers would be able to discriminate against customers on a commercial basis to compel customers to purchase a funeral from their outlet. This would see individuals facing increased funeral costs.

Recommendation 6

Regulation 31 should be maintained to ensure against discriminatory practices by funeral providers

Mandatory Reporting

In the past, CPSA has been informed by NSW Health officials that personnel within the funeral industry loathe reporting breaches of public health regulations. Meanwhile, representatives of the funeral industry have on many occasions stated publicly that there is no point in reporting these as the complaints which they make are not acted on. If operators within the funeral industry are aware of other operators breaching the Public Health Act and the Public Health (Disposal of Bodies) Regulation, then they have an ethical obligation and it is their duty-of-care to not only report these breaches, but to follow up with the appropriate authority if these reports are not acted on. An appropriate regulation to ensure that this occurs should be enacted with the Public Health (Disposal of Bodies) Regulation.

Recommendation 7

To ensure that the funeral industry is operating within the law and by the appropriate regulations, all funeral directors, cemetery and crematoria operators and employees be obliged to report to the appropriate government agency breaches of the law within the industry, and to report to the NSW Ombudsman if the respective department does not appropriately carry out their regulatory obligations