Doctors have fun with cremation fees

DHBs are now also looking to scrap the fee. Photo / Thinkstock
DHBs are now also looking to scrap the fee. Photo / Thinkstock

Hospital doctors may stop charging for cremation certificates after a newspaper investigation revealed the money is being spent on social events and Sky TV.

Cremation certificates are filled out by doctors to verify if a body is suitable to be cremated, such as ensuring it does not have a potentially explosive pacemaker.

Some DHBs are charging up to $90 for the certificates, invoicing the fee to funeral directors who pass it on to the families of the deceased.

Doctors term the money "ash cash", with the proceeds used to fund junior doctors' social club events and pay-to-view television, Fairfax Media reports.

However while the fees were required in the past because home visits to confirm deaths were time consuming, 65 per cent of deaths now occur in care, meaning doctors do not often leave hospitals to confirm deaths.

Nelson Marlborough DHB charges $90 for the certificates, with two-thirds kept by the DHB, while in the Southern and Lakes DHBs, the doctors keep the fee themselves, Fairfax reported.

MidCentral DHB charges $70, with the money going towards "social events".

Several large DHBs have stopped charging for the certificates, including Capital & Coast, Auckland, Counties Manukau, and Waikato.

DHBs are now also looking to scrap the fee, following inquiries by the Dominion Post.

The newspaper has obtained an email from Deborah Powell, national secretary of the Resident Doctors' Association, advising regional representatives to end the practice.

"We have been approached by the DHBs who ... have received an [Official Information Act] request from the media concerning the payment of what is colloquially termed ash cash. All the DHBs now wish to stop payment," she wrote.

- nzherald.co.nz

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