The New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) and New York City Emergency Management (NYCEM) have been working together to assist hospitals with mass fatality management during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most hospitals have returned to normal operations and are exclusively using their fixed facility morgues for decedent storage. Below is a collection of resources that may still be helpful.
Decedent Retrieval: OCME has transitioned back to normal day-to-day operations for decedent retrieval. Each decedent requiring OCME pickup will need to have the following information faxed to OCME at 646-500-5762.
- Case Face Sheet
- Case Clinical Summary Worksheet
- Requires notification to the Public Administrator for any decedent without next of kin
- Death Certificate
- For verification purposes, please send a working copy of the DC
- City Burial cases (where the family specifically requests City Burial) will require:
- Burial Permit
- A letter from the NOK authorizing this disposition type. If NOK are not available, please select Claim Only.
7-day Hold: As of right now, there is no 7-day waiting period for decedent retrieval. OCME will pick up cases on demand as soon as proper paperwork is submitted.
Current Body Collection Point (BCP) Operations
Most BCPs have been demobilized from NYC hospitals and the Strike Teams have been disbanded. More information can be found here. Hospitals that still have a BCP onsite will need to return the trailer to NYCEM by Monday, June 15. Facilities that are ready to have their BCP picked up should contact Faiza Haq.
- BCP Resources: Please refer to the following resources regarding BCP management:
- BCP management is the responsibility of the receiving healthcare facility. As an extension of the facility’s morgue space, the hospital is responsible for the following:
- Human Remains Pouches (HRPs): Hospitals are responsible to ensure they have appropriate supplies for the packaging of decedents for storage. If unable to source any supplies internally, a resource request must be submitted to NYCEM Logistics. All decedents that will be transferred to OCME’s custody must be stored in ruggedized disaster body bags. All other decedents may be stored in regular body bags.
- Release Cases: Hospitals must facilitate the release of cases to funeral homes on demand and in accordance with normal procedures.
- Family Management: Communicating with families to make notification of death and enable arrangement for final disposition.
- Temperature Monitoring: Remains should be stored between 37-44F in the BCP. The receiving facility must monitor the temperature to ensure the storage unit is maintained within this temperature range.
- Fuel Management: Hospitals are responsible for monitoring fuel levels and refueling units. NYCEM has secured a vendor to support fueling, but hospitals should be prepared to provide fuel as needed.
- Security: The receiving facility must ensure that the unit is secure 24 hours a day. Depending on the placement of the unit, this may include taking measures to ensure privacy, deploying lighting elements or cameras, deploying tents or covered walkways, etc. Access to the BCP is to be strictly limited, no unauthorized personnel should have access to the BCP and no photographs should be taken of the interior of the BCP.
- Personal Effects: The hospital is responsible for the management of personal effects. As is current protocol, OCME will not take possession of personal effects when picking up the BCP. Hospitals may use this personal effects tracking form.
Long-Term Decedent Storage
OCME is providing long-term storage for all decedents where a funeral home and/or family need additional time to make arrangements. No decedents will be sent to City Cemetery at Hart Island unless the family/next-of-kin chooses that option or if a decedent remains unclaimed. There is no time limit for how long OCME will hold decedents to ensure that families can fulfill their final disposition wishes.
- Death Certificates: Prior to OCME’s retrieval of decedents, hospitals must ensure death certificates for all decedents are filed and registered appropriately in the eVital system. A method and place of disposition must be entered for the death certificate to be registered. Failure to comply with this requirement will delay the transfer of decedents to OCME’s custody.
- See here for guidance from the Bureau of Vital Statistics on how to run reports in eVital that can help identify incomplete death certificates.
- This guide provides instructions on how to properly complete death certificates and ensure there are no unregistered cases at your facility.
- Hospitals with questions may also e-mail email@example.com.
Daily Morgue Census Survey
OCME is requesting that all hospitals continue to provide their morgue census via this survey to allow OCME proper visibility on each hospital’s current decedent counts. Morgue supervisors should complete the survey daily by 3:00pm.
Long Term Care Facilities
OCME has provided detailed guidance and a workflow map to assist long term care facilities with management of mass fatalities. Facilities should carefully review these items and complete all required paperwork as outlined. All information should be faxed to OCME at 646-500-5762.
Information for Funeral Directors
Funeral Directors may obtain information regarding a case in OCME’s custody here: www.nyc.gov/fdportal (use NYC ID to login).
Behavioral Health Resource
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR)’s Healthcare and Public Health Sector released a COVID-19 update on May 7 that included behavioral health resources. The current pandemic can cause high levels of stress and anxiety, especially in the mortuary fields. This resource provides guidance on managing stress among mortuary and death care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.