Local funeral service rising to COVID-19 pandemic challenges

During this unprecedented time of the novel coronavirus pandemic worldwide, closer to home all essential services have had to adapt and change to meet the challenge of planking the curve.

Dereck Wolkowski owns and operates Wolkowski Funeral Service in Kamsack, and two additional funeral homes, Wolkowski Funeral Service in Canora and NairnChyz-Wolkowski in Roblin, with seven on staff. He recently spoke with the Kamsack Times, giving his perspective about what has had to be done as far as changing and adapting to the physical distancing limitations.

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“Our initial response has been swift, and the most important implementation has been ramping up our sanitizing procedures,” he said. “Paying close attention to sanitizing and disease control is an essential component of our industry. It always has been, but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a heightened awareness to this aspect of the work that we do.

“Most people are not aware that we routinely adhere to strict disinfection procedures and our staff is trained in wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) because in our line of work the risk of coming in contact with infections and contagions is always present. The current pandemic has highlighted our awareness of how important it is for us to protect the public from the spread of the contagion.

“The trained medical community is the first line of defense in a battle against a pandemic, but our staff is the last line of defense, and I will tell you, we do take our role in offering protection to the public very seriously.”

Wolkowski described how each surface that can have human contact is thoroughly disinfected, right down to the doorknobs, “essentially any surface that can be touched.” Hand sanitizer is made readily available.

“It’s a tough situation for grieving families, right now,” he continued. “We have to limit any gatherings to ten people. For visitations, one group will enter at one door, and exit at another, and so on.

“Livestreaming a private service is also an option which we do facilitate for families, so that extended family and friends may connect with the service by tuning in via video.

“It’s important to grieving family members to still be able to share, and feel that sense of togetherness, even with social distancing rules in place,” he said. “It’s all part of the circle of healing and mental health. Families need that sense of ‘togetherness.’”

Although Wolkowski is fully prepared in the event the curve were to spike, right now business has actually slowed down during the current pandemic, as some people opt to postpone the funeral of a loved one or even forgo it altogether.

“Our funeral homes work with a larger provincial Saskatchewan Funeral Service Association, which earlier lobbied the provincial government to have the funeral industry deemed an essential service during the pandemic. If the provincial COVID-19 prediction models were to happen, we are fully prepared.

“Our staff is observing social distancing and making every effort to neither contract nor spread the virus, and in the event that we should see an influx of business we have prepared for that scenario.

“Right now, we feel it is important for the public to understand our role during this pandemic, and we will be affording the most diligent protection to the public as is possible,” Wolkowski concluded.