GNYHA, in collaboration with the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), has created this document portal and resource hub to house all documents and guidance related to fatality management operations in New York City. The page was created during the initial COVID-19 patient surge and is frequently updated with the most up-to-date guidance and current operations. Any changes or updates will be highlighted.

Resources to Update Current Fatality Management Plans & Prepare for Future Incidents

All hospitals and health systems are encouraged to update and revise their internal fatality management plans and protocols based on lessons learned from the initial COVID-19 patient surge. There are several resources below to assist hospitals with this. Please send OCME your updated plans by October 31.

OCME Hospital Toolkit – Updated

OCME has updated their Hospital Toolkit which contains guidance for NYC hospitals to manage fatality surges due to COVID-19. This planning document should be used when updating fatality management plans for future waves.

Fatality Management Forward Planning Symposium Materials

GNYHA, in collaboration with OCME and other City agencies, held a Fatality Management Forward Planning Symposium for all NYC hospitals on August 27. Hospitals were provided a variety of materials to update their internal fatality management plans and updates regarding changes to fatality management operations in the event that a future wave occurs. See here for a recording of the event and here for a PDF version of the full slide deck.

Lessons Learned and Recommendations Document

GNYHA has created multiple lessons learned documents that describe what occurred during the initial patient surge and how best to prepare for future surges. The lessons learned document for fatality management includes challenges, innovations, and a timeline of events, as well as short- and long-term recommendations.

Special Considerations Document

GNYHA’s special considerations document helps hospitals update their plans by highlighting specific issues such as creating interdepartmental fatality management teams and surging mortuary space.

Human Remains Pouches/Body Bags

Hospitals are strongly encouraged to build their internal stockpile of ruggedized disaster body bags. A sample specifications sheet can be found here.

Current Operations

At the height of the COVID-19 patient surge, OCME adjusted its operations to accommodate for the high volume of fatalities. OCME has since transitioned back to normal day-to-day decedent retrieval operations, with the exception that there is still NO seven-day waiting period for case pickup.

Decedent Retrieval

Each decedent requiring OCME pickup will need to have the following information faxed to OCME at their normal number (646-500-5762):

  • Case Face Sheet
  • Case Clinical Summary Worksheet
    • Requires notification to the Public Administrator for any decedent without next of kin (NOK)
  • Death Certificate (DC)
    • For verification purposes, please send a signed and registered 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.

Seven-Day Hold

There is currently no seven-day waiting period for case pickups. Cases will continue to be picked up upon successful completion of all necessary paperwork.

Long-Term Decedent Storage

OCME established a long-term storage operation for all decedents at the height of the fatality surge. Each case will be evaluated on a case by case basis, however, currently there is no time limit for how long OCME will hold decedents in Long Term Storage to ensure that families can fulfill their final disposition wishes.

Morgue Census Survey

All hospitals must continue to complete the morgue census survey on weekdays only (Monday–Friday) by 3:00 p.m. The survey is not required on weekends. OCME creates the Daily Morgue Census Report based on the survey results to provide a citywide picture of in-hospital decedent volume and morgue capacity.

Document Repository

Please see below for up-to-date guidance on various aspects of fatality management operations.

Death Certificates

All decedents requiring OCME retrieval must have completed death certificates filed and registered appropriately in the eVital system. A method and place of disposition must be entered for the death certificate to be registered.

  • 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 evital@health.nyc.gov.

Funeral Homes & Funeral Directors

See here for an OCME brochure that outlines procedures and special policies, including information about long-term decedent storage. Funeral directors may obtain information about a case in OCME’s custody here (use NYC ID to login).

Behavioral Health

The Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response’s Healthcare and Public Health Sector released a COVID-19 update in May that included behavioral health resources. The COVID-19 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.