Sunderland Crematorium to open seven-days-a-week to cope with coronavirus backlog
Sunderland Crematorium is to hold weekend services to cope with the backlog of funerals caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
Funeral director Tony Clarke said families had been facing a wait of up to three weeks and the extra opening hours would make a big difference.
“At the moment it is just chaos, there is no getting away from it,” he said.
“I have never in my life been as busy as this.”
Sunderland City Council had agreed to extend the crematorium’s working hours to cover weekends at no extra cost, said Tony: “Saturday services normally cost a little bit extra but I received an e-mail last night saying the crematorium will be open at no extra costs to families which is brilliant.”
The lengthy wait to organise services was aggravating the suffering of families who had already had to endure the pain of not being able to say goodbye to their loved ones.
“We were so pleased when the restrictions on visits to nursing homes were lifted and families were able to see their loved ones – that was a great comfort,” he said.
“But some families have not had the chance to see their loved ones in their last hours.”
Tony said it was difficult to strike a balance between taking the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus and giving families the chance to say their last goodbyes.
“At the moment, we are restricting people in the funeral homes to two at a time, but still allowing the families an opportunity to see their loved ones in the chapel of rest,” he said.
“We have got a duty of care towards people but we also have to allow people to see their loved ones.”
For some families, the pain of loss had been made worse by the fact they were unable to attend services: “One funeral I did and I had to take photographs because the gentleman’s wife could not get there herself because she was self-isolating,” he said.
“She could not leave the house to see her husband.”
Sunderland City Council’s Executive Director of Neighbourhoods Fiona Brown said: “We are continuing to work closely with funeral directors as we all provide sensitive and appropriate bereavement services during these extraordinary events.
“Sunderland Crematorium is beginning weekend services between 8.30am and 5.30pm on Saturday 25 April and Sunday 26 April.
“These weekend services will continue until further notice and weekday crematorium services continue between 8.30am and 5.30pm.
“The council has contingency plans to further extend crematorium hours if necessary.”