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Cape Town – Several undertakers are at loggerheads with funeral service provider Avbob in Maitland, accusing the company of exploiting poor families by allegedly charging clients extra costs for personal protective equipment (PPE) for the deceased at Groote Schuur Hospital, despite these being provided for by the hospital.
But Avbob has refuted the allegations, describing them as part of a campaign to discredit the service provider.
Undertakers United Front coordinator, Pastor Kenny Mc Dillon, said they have tried to reach Groote Schuur Hospital management to report the matter but were told there was nothing the hospital could do.
“All our refusals and nagging has resulted in nothing but Avbob making huge amounts of money off poor families that we must now charge and this makes us the enemy.
“However the body bags that the hospital supplies do not form part of PPE. The regulation as per the Department of Health, long before Covid-19, required the contracted funeral parlour, Avbob in this case, should wear PPE long before Covid as part of their terms of removal. So why then now charge for something they get paid for by the government,” he said.
Another undertaking firm, Eyodidi Funeral Undertakers said the issue had many undertakers fuming.
Its owner Chris Stali said they have also witnessed people being “taken for a ride” by Avbob by charging them huge amounts.
“We’ve been patient enough waiting for a solution as funeral undertakers, especially those who are operating in the poor areas. Because when Avbob is charging me as an undertaker who has been tasked by a family from Gugulethu or Khayelitsha to go and pick up a body, I am forced to charge the money to that family.
“It’s very painful for some of us. The funny part of this whole thing is that we cannot get hold of those who have given Avbob this contract,” Stali said.
Avbob general manager for funeral service, Pieter van der Westhuizen, said the company was not exploiting customers. He said, in fact, Avbob was the first company to offer free PPE to customers using their funeral services.
“Over the past 12 months, we have offered free PPE to the value of R18 million to our customers. Further to this, (our) policy holders that did funerals with us were the beneficiaries of our mutual model and received free services to the value of R500 million the past twelve months,” he said.
Van der Westhuizen added that Avbob had an agreement with the Department of Health to remove deceased people from the hospital to their mortuary.
“This cost is not borne by the hospital and as practised by the funeral industry and reported by the media, but customers carry this additional cost.
“Our personnel are compelled to wear full PPE when the deceased is suspected to have passed on from Covid-19. For the use of the PPE we are charging the family a nominal fee, much less than what most other undertakers are charging families for the use of PPE.
“This agreement advises that any additional cost of the PPE required for the removal of Covid-19 bodies as per regulatory requirements set out in the Government Gazette, is not covered by the contract and will be passed on to the undertaker collecting the deceased from AVBOB Funeral Services,” he said.
Health spokesperson Mark van der Heever said they have a contracted agreement in place with the undertakers supporting hospitals for specific services.
“Anything outside of the service level agreement is at the service provider’s cost. We kindly ask all residents to please check with their contracted service provider and with the hospital where their loved one is on what the respective responsibilities are,” he said.