COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Losing a loved one is already a nightmare. For some South Carolina families, that grieving process has been prolonged as they have had to wait weeks to hold a burial.
That’s because of a death certificate delay, caused by the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s new system for filing death certificates.
DHEC moved to Genesis Systems on January 11 because the old one used Adobe Flash, which was set to expire on Jan. 12. Since then, the system has experienced glitches, leaving some families in limbo.
“There’s so many left undone things that need to be done, and we can’t go forward with anything,” explained West Columbia resident Cheryl Jackson, who lost her husband of nearly 30 years on December 21.
On December 29, Jackson and her daughter requested her husband’s death certificate, but two weeks passed, and she hadn’t heard anything. She contacted her husband’s doctor and the Lexington County Coroner’s Office, and she says both told her the certificate had been sent to DHEC. After spending hours on the phone, she traveled to DHEC’s Columbia office Tuesday and waited there for hours. She still had no luck.
“My system has failed me, and my heart goes out to these people that are trying to bury their loved ones,” Jackson explained. “This is horrific.”
Jackson isn’t the only South Carolinian facing this problem. Some who’ve chosen to cremate their loved ones need a death certificate to do so.
“With the delays waiting to be able to cremate decedents, the funeral homes have reached capacity in some cases,” noted Lexington County Chief Deputy Coroner Candace Berry.
Berry says when DHEC rolled out its new system, death certificates initiated in the old one had to be transferred, and some unique PIN numbers given to coroners, doctors, and funeral homes weren’t working and had to be reset.
“It’s really just waiting on DHEC on the glitches, and they really have done a phenomenal job, but it’s just going to take some time to work through all of these initial bugs,” said Berry.
This system changeover is a process that Berry and the South Carolina Funeral Home Association say should typically take a year, and they add DHEC had only three months.
But some people say DHEC should have moved to a new system years ago, as they argue this Adobe Flash change was expected. COVID-19 has only made this issue more complicated as doctors and funeral homes are experiencing more deaths than usual, according to the Funeral Home Association.
DHEC says it’s fixed PIN number problems, and they’ve dedicated a 24/7 phone line for support.
For PIN and log-in issues, call 803-898-0420. For other issues regarding death certificates, you can call 803-898-3409.
WIS reached out to DHEC Wednesday today to get an update on the death certificate delay. We have not yet heard back.