Get Caught Up: Funeral directors speak out about issues at Wayne County Morgue

Funeral directors feel families are being treated poorly

Funeral home directors are speaking out about how they’re treated by the Wayne County Morgue.

WAYNE COUNTY, Mich. – Funeral home directors are speaking out about how they’re treated by the Wayne County Morgue.

Directors said until now, people have been afraid to come forward with complaints because they were concerned their processes would get slowed down if they spoke up.

Get Caught Up” is ClickOnDetroit’s Saturday news review to help readers catch up on the biggest stories of the week.

Families have been forced to wait for days for cremation permits, while other morgues grant those permits in a matter of hours -- sometimes minutes. Those delays can cause heartbreak for families.

Funeral director Stephen Kemp said he feared retaliation from the Wayne County Morgue, so he kept quiet for years. He said now is the time to speak up.

“Family members want closure. They want things to move along but I cannot move until I have that permit. So we, say for instance, I get a death certificate sign, I fax it or email it down to the medical examiner to get approval. There’s where the block comes,” Kemp said.

He said he is tired of watching families in pain wait and wait to cremate their loved ones because he can’t get the permit required from the Wayne County Morgue.

“I mean, you complain to investigator every time we ask for a supervisor. It’s like, well they’re not here. And that’s typically what I hear,” Kemp said.

Mistakes in the Morgue: Click here for complete coverage

The Local 4 Defenders have learned the morgue is not on the electronic death registration system, so the delays in paperwork continue to build and build. Other nearby county morgues keep their records electronically.

“For a county as large as Wayne County there are certain hours like I think it was 12 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. that we can get remains removed. So, you have pretty much a line coming out trying to in those limited hours of releasing. Oakland County’s 24 hours. Now, mind you, they do have a smaller caseload than Wayne County and it may be a staffing issue,” Kemp said.

At least two other funeral home directors have not gone public with how poorly they are treated by the Wayne County Morgue.

Funeral directors are concerned that by speaking out they will face retaliation. Local 4 brought those concerns to Wayne County Chief Operating Officer Genelle Allen.

“We told them now that they’re in the spotlight, you know, that we’ll be watching and retaliation will not be tolerated,” Allen said.

University of Michigan Health System runs the morgue and has a $31 million contract to do so. The county has asked them to take the steps toward implementing the electronic death registration, which should fix some of the major delays families have been dealing with for years in obtaining cremation permits.

Click here for complete Local 4 Defenders coverage

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.