To respond to a surge in uncertified and untrained funeral directors and embalmers in recent years, professionals in the industry have come together to form an association to advance and protect funeral professional practices.
In a statement, the new Bahamas Funeral Directors Association (BFDA) said the year 2018 started a transitional period in death care and bereavement services in the country.
"Historically, providers of funeral services and products were men and women with years of hands-on experience and a tremendous depth of practical knowledge and skills.
"As with all professions, with the adoption 21st century best practices and technological advances, the funeral industry in the Bahamas has witnessed the emergence of a dynamic and diverse cadre of professionally certified and skillfully trained funeral service practitioners with the entrepreneurial skills and acumen to match. With this emergence, the funeral industry has simultaneously witnessed an unprecedented upsurge of individuals claiming to be funeral directors and embalmers. Regrettably, such individuals grossly misrepresent the essence of a certified funeral director and embalmer," said the BFDA.
In recognition of and in response to what bereaved families and the public at large has had to experience because of the absence of modernised legislation and regulations governing the local funeral industry, the BFDA was established.
"The core purpose within this administrative year is to realise the enactment of legislation of the funeral industry. To protect and advance professional funeral practices in the Bahamas," the organisation said.
It is envisioned by the executives, board of directors and membership that this purpose will be fulfilled through the association's primary objectives:
To be the singular representative of the funeral industry in matters related to the formulation of national laws, regulations and ethical standards.
To establish policies and guidelines for regulating the practices of professionally certified funeral directors and embalmers and individuals who operate/own funeral establishments.
To establish a Board of Funeral Service to ensure that best practices, procedures and codes of conduct are maintained; to administer a national licencing exam for candidates applying for licence to practice in the Bahamas and to arbitrate disputes arising from alleged professional misconduct.
With the mandate to ensure the enactment of legislation of funeral service in the Bahamas, the recent elections resulted in the formation of an executive team, board of directors and chairpersons. The first BFDA president is Kirsh Ferguson of Ferguson's Funerals Directors. The vice president is Stephen Johnson of Kemp's Funeral Home.
To date, the association has had consultative meetings with the Consumer Protection Commission, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and the Employee's Confederation.
"As guardians of public health we are presently in professional consultative meetings with the Ministry of Health, selectively prioritised, as the needs of the bereaved community and national public health dictates," said the BFDA.
"As a group of young professionals with diverse backgrounds we respect human rights but practice Christian democracy. We wish to apologise for any anxiety and discomfort whether financial, emotional and by the recent media spotlight on our industry. Please be advised we have noted the public response and it is in professional neighbourly atmosphere the Bahamas Funeral Directors Association seeks to eliminate the perpetrators."