Evening services easing backlogs at funeral parlors

By Huang Chi-hao and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Fri, Nov 23, 2012 - Page 5

To alleviate congested schedules and long waiting times for certain auspicious days, the Taipei City Mortuary Service Office has started evening services at the city’s Second Funeral Parlor on Xinhai Road.

The late services commenced last month in response to complaints that families often had to wait up to two weeks for certain burial dates, especially for popular days in the lunar calendar.

Officials from the Mortuary Service Office said funeral services are now available from 5pm to 7pm and there will soon be provision for other evening slots.

According to folk beliefs, there are “high seasons” and “low seasons” for funeral services. People tend to avoid conducting funeral services around Lunar New Year and Ghost Month (the seventh month on the lunar calendar) and will either push for earlier dates or postpone a funeral around these times, leading to an upsurge in funeral service registrations outside these two periods.

To accommodate demand on auspicious days, the Taipei City Mortuary Service Office began to allow services in the evening during Ghost Month in 2009 after the three daily time slots available proved insufficient to meet demand.

As a result, the Second Funeral Parlor allowed for evening services, initially for the months before and following the Lunar New Year holidays and Ghost Month.

Yang Yi-ling (楊薏霖), deputy chief for the Mortuary Service Office, said that renovation work was being carried out on the Second Funeral Parlor at the time, necessitating the demolition of three of its funeral halls.

To accommodate demand, other halls introduced four time slots for funerals. The Taipei Funeral Service Industry Association recommended that the fourth time slot be continued even after the renovation was completed to alleviate congestion on days deemed to be auspicious.

Yang said that Taipei’s First and Second Funeral Parlors combined can provide for 20,300 funeral service annually, while on average 15,000 people die in the city each year.

As the two city-administered parlors handle about 18,300 bodies each year, if people are not picky on the dates, then the funeral parlors have sufficient time slots to accommodate demand, she said.

The industry association sees the evening time slots as a legitimate response to public demand, and is keen to raise awareness of their existence. People can make enquiries and register for funeral services online, although at present only the city’s Second Funeral Parlor offers evening services.

Yang said that bodies are kept in refrigerated storage for 15 days on average, so evening services could reduce the wait for a suitable time slot to become available at funeral halls. For example, in February 2009 the average waiting time for bodies in storage was 16.69 days. After the commencement of evening services, this fell to 13.1 days.

She said if the public can accept the concept of “every day is a favorable day,” then funeral waiting times could decrease further.