When the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board was in Clearwater last August, Mayor John Harwood spoke about a situation that had arisen a few months earlier.
The Clearwater mayor said that the BC Coroners Service (BCCS) had centralized to Kamloops the collection of bodies that result from sudden and unexpected deaths in the North Thompson Valley.
According to BCCS spokesperson Barb McLintock, the change was brought in last May after being advertised on BC Bid in January.
The contract was awarded to C. Thompson & Sons, which is a company based in Kelowna.
The area covered by the contract includes the North Thompson Valley as far north as Clearwater, but not beyond. It also includes 70 Mile House, Spences Bridge, Merritt), Westwold, Sorrento and Scotch Creek.
“The Coroners Service contracts for body transport services across the province,” said McLintock. “The terms of the service contracts are consistent throughout the province, although the required response time may vary depending on the population density of the area covered, ranging from 30 minutes in the densest urban areas to 90 minutes in areas of low population concentration.”
“It should be noted that the number of cases involved is very small,” she said. “The total number of cases reported to the Coroner and handled by the Clearwater and/or Barriere RCMP detachments since Jan. 1, 2013, is 14.”
According to McLintock, in at least 75 per cent of those cases, the situation also required the attendance of a coroner and/or a specialized police investigator such as forensic identification or a traffic analyst. These persons are also deployed from the Kamloops area, so personnel in the North Thompson would wait for their arrival and investigation, no matter where body removal is dispatched from.
Clearwater RCMP, the highway rescue teams in the North Thompson Valley and the people involved in counseling the bereaved were not consulted about the possible effects on the family of having to wait with a dead body for someone to come from Kamloops, said the spokesperson.
“Since the new service contract for this area came into place, BCCS has not received any complaints concerning the service quality, delayed response times or any other issues, or response times from police, first responder agencies, or families,” she said.
If the body of a loved one is taken to Kamloops, BCCS is not required by legislation to return it to the North Thompson, she said.
“However, this may occur on occasion dependent on the individual circumstances of the case,” the BCCS spokesperson said. “In cases where a body does not have to be transported from a local community to a large center for autopsy the BCCS will attempt to negotiate arrangements with local funeral service providers for body storage. While this could preclude the need to transport bodies in some cases it is contingent on the agreement of local funeral service operators.”
Before the change the BCCS was paying $400 plus distance, consumable supplies and additional fees if the service went beyond two hours.
“A cursory review of 2012 activity shows we were averaging about $715/unit for the Barriere/ Clearwater corridor. We now pay $450/unit within the area described in the contract and above,” she said.
The BCCS spokesperson noted that other advantages that arise from having one supplier for the larger area include:
• Contract administration
• Reduced volume of invoices
• Greater consistency of service delivery
• Simplified process for coroners who need to consider fewer boundaries, and improved interaction and relationship building with same body removal staff
• Economies of scale for contractor (staff training, work volumes, asset utilization, etc.)
• For budgeting purposes, having a fixed “all-in” unit rate is preferable to rates that fluctuate. It provides for greater cost certainty.
• It is reasonable to expect that a larger area with greater volumes of service would make for more competitive bidding/pricing.