GNYHA, in collaboration with the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), New York City Emergency Management (NYCEM), and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Bureau of Vital Statistics (BVS), has created this document portal and resource hub to house all documents and guidance related to fatality management operations in New York City (NYC). The page was created during the initial COVID-19 patient surge in Spring 2020 and is regularly updated.
Morgue Census Survey
Due to the stabilization in fatalities, OCME is no longer requiring hospitals to complete the morgue census survey. Updates will be provided as the situation evolves.
Family Communication and Management
- OCME has created this document to help hospitals communicate with families regarding decedents who may be transferred to OCME’s custody.
- New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA) offers a burial assistance program to surviving family members who require financial assistance to make burial arrangements. HRA has made changes to the application process to further ease the burden on surviving family members by extending the submission deadline and increasing the per decedent allowance. Please visit HRA’s burial assistance program webpage for more information or call the HRA Office of Burial Services at 929-252-7731.
Should decedent retrieval be a condition to maintain morgue capacity, hospitals should continue to follow the body collection point (BCP) protocol below for in-hospital deaths.
To request a BCP, hospitals should contact their affiliated association:
Once requested, a unit should be deployed within 48 hours.
- BCPs can be used to store claimed cases (those with death certificates claimed by a funeral director in eVital) and unclaimed cases (those with death certificates NOT yet claimed by a funeral director in eVital). Please note that, unclaimed cases in BCPs are not eligible for OCME retrieval and must be removed when the BCP is retrieved.
- Medical Examiner cases and fetal remains should not be stored in BCPs.
- BCPs are delivered with 20 disaster bags NYCEM will maintain BCP fueling throughout deployment.
Morgue Decompression Strategies
GNYHA, OCME, NYCEM, and DOHMH BVS are seeking to coordinate closely with hospitals to use decompression strategies to maintain low morgue census. We understand that BCPs are often a facility’s last resort. As such, the following guidance may help maintain a low decedent census in fixed morgues.
- Hospital Protocols for Claimed Cases: To maintain a low morgue census, hospitals should review their protocols for claimed cases. Hospitals with small, fixed morgues may choose to aggressively decant once half (e.g., 50%) of morgue spaces are full, hospitals with larger facilities may consider a higher trigger (e.g., 75%).
- Death Certificates: Hospitals must create and certify death certificates prior to funeral directors claiming death certificates or OCME retrieving unclaimed decedents. While hospitals are required to create and certify death certificates within 24 hours, faster registration—ideally within eight hours—is strongly encouraged to enable speedier case retrieval by funeral directors or OCME.
- See BVS guidance on how to run reports in eVital to 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.
- Please contact eVital for questions about your facility’s eVital users or for other eVital- or death certificate-related questions
Hospital Planning Resources
See below for resources available to hospitals to update fatality management plans and prepare for future incidents.
OCME Hospital Toolkit
OCME’s Hospital Toolkit contains guidance for NYC hospitals to manage fatality surges. This planning document should be used when updating fatality management plans for future waves.
OCME Hospital Fatality Management Plan Template
Lessons Learned and Recommendations Document
GNYHA has created multiple lessons learned documents that describe a number of hospital operations during the COVID-19 initial patient surge and how best to prepare for future surges. Fatality management lessons learned 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 like 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.